Covering up the chinks in our clothing we prepared for the 6th Annual Sponsored Event. The wind roared and the rain was not letting up…. hmmm not the most ideal of conditions!
‘These are to carry on the way.’ Debs passed out two bundles of firewood, one bowl of wild plums and a basket containing 40 bananas. ‘But the challenge is to carry it on your head.’ Excitement was bubbling under our kags and macs and even in our wellies.
Phil Irvin, who took care of us throughout the day with hot drinks and soup, spoke about the reason for our expedition into the storm.
‘Compared to how far some children walk to go to school, this is easy. We’re here to have fun, but we’re also here to make a big statement of love to the children under our care in Malawi. They get so encouraged and moved when they see what crazy things we’re doing to raise money for them.’ He paused. We all felt the tug upon our hearts as well. ‘How amazing is it that we can let these kids know that they are loved and cared for? So let’s have fun, and let’s remember who we’re doing this for.’
It was time; hoods up, shoes off.
We started down the beach towards Barmston; a party of around 28, set apart by our brightly coloured buffs, some walking barefoot, some carrying the supplies in the Malawian Traditional way, leaving footprints spread across the dense sand. I guess we looked quite a spectacle! There was a moment when it rained so ferociously that you couldn’t open your eyes. When the rain passed, eyes were sore and fingers numb and yes baskets and bundles were still balancing on heads!
At Barmston car park, where Phil stood ready hot drinks and a welcome smile, we nabbed bananas from the basket and rested, taking in the beautiful view from the cliff top.
The rain clouds began to clear as we set off for the final leg of the journey. For those walking bare foot, negotiating the shells and stones proved a challenge but they quickly made their way to the softer sand.
People walked side by side. People talked. It was a great time to get together and spend time with one another. As we continued our way back to Wilsthorpe with the Threshold Church crew setting a steady pace, the sun began to appear through the clouds warming our backs. Ezekiel, Natalie, Debs, Paul, Paul, Joanne, Lucy and Wayne all still bare foot encouraged a few more to get in the groove and take off their shoes as we took our last break at Fraisthrope.
Reaching those last few meters, the remaining clouds seemed to part and sun beamed down on us. We had no band of trumpeters and no party poppers, but we had the glorious colours of the sky to welcome us across the finish line. It was beautiful.
Back again at the start and a little less cold, we stretched out our calf muscles and posed for a few finishing shots. The ‘Best Barefoot Walker’ prize was presented to Paul Wood who had made a staggering 180 mile round trip to take part. He proudly carried his multi-coloured, edible foot lolly-pop and certificate back home!
The event finished at the café bar; sitting outside together in the warm sun we could hardly believe the start of the day had been so bleak. It seemed to be a picture of how adversity can presents itself, challenging us and we can be put off by it, and yet when we push through, when we stick together, encouraging one another we accomplish more than we could do alone and we even have fun! The sun eventually did re appear from its hiding place -from behind the thick grey clouds and when it did it changed our whole outlook!
After celebrating with cups of tea we held together a big white banner for our final photo saying a big “well done” to one of Shines Students “Innocent” who achieved A’s and B’s in his exam results this year.
Special thanks go to RESPECT for letting us use their minibus for the day, and to the Beach Holiday Park Barmston staff and South Cliff Caravan park attendants who were very hospitable to us.
Sarah Topliss and Deborah Irvin