The faith and positivity that helped Matt Napier ‘Walk to a Better World’

1 Sep 2016   |   Blog

Tags:  end poverty, fundraising, Walk to a Better World   |   No comments

 Matt posing with the Australian flag after finishing the walk

Earlier this year, we introduced you to Australian anti-poverty ambassador Matt Napier.

Matt was preparing to embark on a huge walk across Southern Africa with his soccer ball, aiming to raise awareness and funds for global poverty. He has previously walked and cycled across Australia in the name of poverty, but this was his biggest challenge yet.

Matt and his wife Wendy recently returned home from the life-changing adventure and Caritas Australia were lucky enough the catch up with the pair, getting insight into their incredible experiences and memories.

“I think a few of the highlights were probably the people that we met. [They were] really warm and friendly people across Southern Africa, really receptive of the walk,” Matt explains.

Matt walking east of Swartruggens

One particular memory that stood out for Matt was a visit to Sizo Primary School in Mashishing, South Africa. Caritas Australia previously partnered with the Catholic Institute of Education in South Africa to help schools including Sizo Primary. The Creating Caring Schools program supported Sizo Primary and other schools with things such as transport, school supplies, nutrition and access to education and health services. Matt believes the improvement at the school as a result of this assistance was evident the day of his visit.

“It’s a very well set up school. They’ve got some very good teachers there. The area that they live in is very, very poor. Just a lot of tin sheds and mud brick houses. I was really surprised when we actually went off the main highway and saw the living standards. I was a bit taken aback by how basic it was.”

“You can see that the kids there are getting an opportunity at life now. They are getting an education, the teachers are teaching them life skills and things like that so what Caritas has done there is fantastic. It’s really good to see the money people donate going to good use.”

The walk presented many challenges to Matt, who lost 15 kilograms during the 8 week trip.

“[The] biggest challenge was definitely living under the poverty line. That was the hardest thing,” says Matt. But his ability to look at the positives enabled him to put the challenges in perspective.

Matt was living on US$1.50 a day, but maintains some of the people he met during the trip would do anything to be in that position. For example, a woman he met in Mozambique, who had recently suffered a stroke, was having to endure consecutive days without food and her house was only a 2x2 metre room.

You can see that the kids there are getting an opportunity at life now. They are getting an education, the teachers are teaching them life skills and things like that so what Caritas has done there is fantastic."
Matt Napier

Wendy believes Matt’s positive perspective is what sets him apart from others.

“I’d comment more on being hungry than he would,” she adds. “But I wasn’t walking what he was walking so I shouldn’t have actually been anywhere near as hungry as him. But Matt won’t think about it. He’ll think about the positives. He’ll talk about all the good stuff, he’ll talk about what he sees so he just distracts himself from it, in a real mentally strong way.”

Matt credits his faith as another reason why he never gave up during his walk.

“Being a Catholic and looking back on it, you can just see how I was helped across the walk. There were just instances and situations we were put into where you know that you were helped through.”

He also has an important and permanent reminder on his body that he looks to for inspiration.

“I have the words ‘no regrets’ tattooed on the inside of my arm… if you give up on something, you’re always going to regret it. So if you give up on this walk 2 weeks in, 6 months down the track, you’re gonna regret it, aren’t you?”

Matt (centre) with Mary Glory of the Catholic Institute of Education (left) and the principal of Sizo Primary school (right)

All up, the trip saw Matt walk 2,297 km in the name of global poverty. The walk raised funds for sustainable development projects run by Caritas Australia, The Fred Hollows Foundation, CARE Australia and Oxfam Australia.

In the near future, Matt is looking to get into motivational speaking and wants to continue to work with Caritas Australia. One issue he would like to focus on is creating awareness for is greater equality, particularly around race and gender.

"Equality is still a big thing for me” says Matt. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, not just in Africa, but all around the world. Going forward that’s really something I want to get involved in."

You can take the pledge and donate 1% of your income to help Matt and Caritas Australia make a fairer world for all


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