Two European philanthropists have spent more than a year walking from their continent to Asia to raise funds for needy children in Vietnam.
Simon Niggli from Switzerland and Christoph Obmascher from Austria have walked 7,000km across 19 countries since their departure on January 18, 2015.
All of the donations raised during their trip are transferred to World Vision, a relief and development organization, which will use them to implement education projects for children in two districts in Vietnam.
Niggli and Obmascher had a meeting in Hanoi on Wednesday, when they recalled their journey and its meaning to the media.
The philanthropists traveled on foot through many European countries to China, from which they took trains and buses to Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Vietnam, according to World Vision.
In late February, they finally arrived in Tram Tau District in Yen Bai Province and Lang Chanh District in Thanh Hoa Province to meet the two local children they had sponsored through World Vision’s program.
When he first visited Vietnam in 1999, Niggli felt deep affection for the country and has since been a generous sponsor of underprivileged Vietnamese children.
Through World Vision, the Swiss man started sponsoring a child in Lang Chanh until he grew up and was no longer eligible for the support in 2012.
Niggli then sponsored the second child, Le Xuan Khang, whom he visited early this week in the district.
In the meantime, Obmascher has sponsored Phang A Tua in Tram Tau since 2014.
“We have seen so many beautiful places, met so many friendly people and experienced hospitality and warmth,” Obmascher said as he met Tua and his family last week.
“Many people who are living in such difficult situations have touched our hearts.
“What has impressed us the most is the poorer people are, the more generous they become.”
The Austrian added that their journey was meant to “call for more people to open their hearts to help poor children, especially those in Vietnam, the country [we] love.”
Niggli and Obmascher quit their jobs and spent two years preparing for their trip. They examined all the walkable roads and weather conditions that were suitable for walking as well as meeting potential sponsors from Switzerland and Austria before they started their trek.
Their journey has been screened on Austrian and Swiss national television channels.
The sponsorship is part of World Vision’s Area Development Program, which has been in place in Vietnam for 15 years. There are now 40 Area Development Programs and 16 special projects in 15 provinces throughout the country.
World Vision International is a relief and development organization working to improve the quality of life of people, especially children, who are marginalized and living in poverty.
The organization started operating in Vietnam and providing emergency relief assistance in 1988 before opening an office in Hanoi in 1990. Since then, World Vision has implemented many relief and development programs, partnering the Vietnamese government, other non-governmental organizations and communities.
Last year World Vision earmarked a total budget of US$26 million for its programs and projects, benefiting, both directly and indirectly, some three million Vietnamese children.