1. Destination: Nepal
My photo was taken on day four of a 12 day trek through the Annapurna Sanctuary. This was my first time trekking with a team of teens and to see the way they banded together, the natural leaders and fitter Challengers stepping up to help the struggling team members, really demonstrated to me the way we can really use challenges and obstacles in life to develop as individuals while growing as a team. This team bonding was highlighted later on in the trip when one of the Challengers wrote a bio on each of the team members. Throughout the entire trek several of boys, all with a passion for AFL, had likened the trek to a footy match, giving each of the team members a AFL alias and a position, then used this analogy to help others through the tough times through a running commentary of support. The bios were written based on the aliases given and the humour, positivity and overall team supportiveness shone through to give an amazing finale to rollercoaster of a trek.
2. Destination: Cambodia
Whilst on project in Cambodia with Rosebud Secondary College we met one of the project workers Chen Seng.
Chen Seng was a huge soccer fan and as it was the World Cup whilst were away he was even more excited about the sport than normal. He arranged for our team to go to the local stadium which him and his friends hired out for us to play against them. We started off playing 5 a-side but we quickly ended up with 8 on our team and were still being well and truly beaten. We finished the evening with all of the players from both sides on the pitch at once (about 25 people).The Cambodian players didn’t speak any English yet we all managed to understand each other and have a great evening. It proves that sport is a universal language.
3. Destination: Fiji
At first glance, this may look like any other scenic view, but this is not just any old rock! This is the 180th meridian. Known as the “Crossroads of the Pacific”, the 180th meridian or anti-meridian, is more commonly known as the International Date Line. I took the photo during a recce trip to the island of Taveuni, Fiji’s third largest island, and our In-Country Agent, Henry, made sure we stopped off to so that we could stand on the very spot where a new day begins and every day ends. Henry also jumped up onto the rock so he could stand on the spot right between yesterday and today.
4. Destination: Myanmar
This is a picture taken at the Bagan archaeological area in north-east Myanmar. We’ll be sending our first teams to Myanmar in the middle of 2016, and I was in the country on recce last year. To me it represents the incredible history and sights that teams will encounter. But as breath-taking as these sites are, they pale into insignificance when compared to the opportunities that Challengers will have to meet and engage with the country’s incredible people. They have endured many years of hardship, and yet retain phenomenal intelligence and optimism. So many of them have a fascinating story to tell; hopefully sending our teams there will in some small way help to ensure that these stories are heard.
5. Destination: Botswana
This photo encapsulates a bunch of the reasons I loved the expedition I was on. We were on our fourth day of a five day trek but due to medical issues this was the first day we properly left our original campsite. We saw our first wild animals – zebras, springbok and impalas – which was incredible. The challengers had heavy packs but the entire day was full of laughs and songs (including plenty of old school rap and the entire Lion King soundtrack which was led by me – the shame!). At one point we had an option as to whether we finished the day’s trekking after 14kms in brutal heat and direct sunshine or carried on to really challenge ourselves and go an extra 8kms. After a lengthy debate (with no input from the adults) the team decided to trek the last 8kms in order to heighten their sense of achievement! By the end of it we were all completely wrecked but over the course of the day the challengers had demonstrated resilience, endurance, teamwork, leadership and maintained the sense of fun of it all!
6. Destination: Vietnam
My picture was taken while we were plucking chickens for a celebratory feast at our project site, Quangnam Center for the Homeless and the Disabled in Hoi An. It was the team’s responsibility to purchase, kill and pluck 50 chickens for the feast. A group of Challengers went to the market with the centre’s cook to buy the live chickens and then with the help of a centre resident we killed and plucked 50 chickens. In many ways this experience was a real learning opportunity for the team. Not only did it show them the importance of team work, but was also a real eye opener for many to see firsthand the work involved in getting a meal on the table and that food, in particular meat doesn’t arrive to every family in the world pre-prepared in a sealed plastic carton. It also divided the team, those getting stuck in felt let down by those who refused to be anywhere near the chickens. There were tears and some hungry Challengers when it came to the feast (held the next day) but it was a real turning point for some of the Challengers. For me, this day really pushed me outside of my comfort zone, but I’m so glad I did get involved and supported the team.
7. Destination: Laos
This photo was from my expedition to Vietnam & Laos. This picture was taken mid-way through the second week as we arrived into Luang Prabang after a eight hour bus ride from Vang Vieng. The team were tired and ready to get to the accommodation, but due to city restrictions, our bus could not take us all the way into the city. Here the Team Leader and accountant for the day are negotiating with the Tuk-tuk drivers as to the best price. Despite being tired and frustrated that they had not been told about this by the bus company, they stepped up and negotiated our onward travel. Something that they would not achieved only a week before.
8. Destination: Botswana
As the bus rattled down the dust red road, there was a sense of excitement and nerves – no one really knew what to expect. We were literally the first team into the project site at the primary school in Ranaka, a small village, a couple of hours from Gabarone. It at first seemed eerily quiet as we pulled into the school yard. Then….screaming, cheering, laughing from hundreds of children, as they seemed to magically appear from nowhere and mob the bus! It was INCREDIBLE!!! Our team, after a moment of shock, clicked what was happening around them and bundled off the bus, straight into the action and started playing with the kids, high fiving, giving piggy back rides, laughing and joking with them. I felt so honoured and proud to be welcomed in such a warm and happy way. We went to start building the foundations of a library but the real lesson for me was seeing their joy and happiness, their eagerness to welcome us, to sing with us, to share their home with us.
8. Destination: Vietnam
This photo was taken when I spent three weeks travelling through Cambodia and Vietnam meeting teams on their Community Engagement and Project phase. Khoa (Vietnam In-Country Agent) and I were keen to set up some new project partnerships and visited this community on an island in Dong Binh hamlet, Quang Nam Province. It is a warm and welcoming community that sees almost no tourists. We met with the Village Chief, introduced ourselves and explained the concept of a World Challenge expedition. Not only was he willing to permit our teams into the community he wanted to open his doors and host us! Within ten minutes we had several local families offering their homes as homestays, to cook delicious Vietnamese meals, or to help out in some way on site. Everyone was so excited about the chance to meet, share cultures and work together with teams and I can’t wait to send our first group there!
8. Destination: Nepal
I went on a three week expedition with a school from Queensland to Nepal in June 2014. This picture is of trekking guide, Krishna and I at Devi Falls in Pokhara, Nepal. Unfortunately, during the expedition a member of our team fell ill, which meant the two of us stayed behind in Pokhara, while the rest of the team completed the 6-day Poon Hill trek. Each day Krishna (who also stayed behind) would meet us in the lobby of our accommodation and ask what we wanted to do for the day. This was a highlight for me, as while I spent time with Krishna and got to see the local sites, I learnt more about Nepalese traditions and history which I found hugely valuable.
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