By Matthew Poynting
When Matthew Clark returns to school after the summer school holidays he will have quite a tale to tell his classmates.
The 15-year-old from Roseville will head to Myanmar on January 30 with parents Vera and Stuart to take part in Trek to Reach Out, a 12-day adventure exploring the rugged landscape of a country steeped in history.
See related story: Myanmar’s first Cardinal has high hopes for peace, freedom in his country
The parishioners at Holy Family parish in Lindfield will also celebrate Matthew’s 16th birthday during their journey.
“I think it’ll be cool to celebrate [my birthday] in another country,’ said Matthew, adding that he won’t be expecting gifts this year.
“Giving to others is a good gift in itself.”
The Clarks are taking up the challenge—run by Catholic Mission and Inspired Adventures—to raise funds for children’s and community projects, some of which they will visit during their trip.
Vera and Stuart’s older son William, a teacher in training, won’t be joining the hike, but has been the trio’s biggest supporter, baking cookies and slices for a parish bake sale last year, while donating his own money and getting the word out.
“I’m keen to meet the kids and see how school in Myanmar compares to the ‘leafy North Shore’,” said Matthew.
Stuart agreed it will be an eye-opening experience.
“Meeting and talking to children in need will be a challenge for me. I want to help people immediately, but I have to look at the bigger picture; it has to be done in a sustainable way. The funds we raise will sustain these programs.”
The idea to get involved came from Vera, a long-time supporter of Catholic Mission who was inspired by a friend working in international aid in Myanmar.
“He highly recommended going to the country soon, before tourism really takes off and while it is still unspoiled,” she says.
“I wanted to join the Ride to Reach Out in Cambodia last year, but the timing was better this time around to travel and support Catholic Mission.”
Stuart was quick to sign up with his wife but Matthew says his decision took some time.
“I needed a little convincing, but soon realised it would be fun and a great experience, not just for me, but for those I’m raising money for.”
See related story: Andrew Brazier completes solo Pacific sail for Indigenous literacy
As for the physical challenge of hiking over 60 kilometres in a tropical, mountainous climate, Vera admits it will be a step up.
“I am a bit worried about hiking up to eight hours per day,’ she says. “We do walk and hike, but mostly for two to three hours max. This will be a challenge for all three of us.”
The family has set up a fundraising page with a target of nearly $10,000, and have already raised more than $7,000 for education, health and community development projects in Myanmar. The three explorers will have the opportunity to visit the people and the projects their funds will support.
To follow and donate to the Clark’s journey click here.