At the Hanoi Opera House, two English teachers, Jake Norris from Australia and Sean Down from Ireland, began a trailblazing trek of 2,000km across Vietnam on Sunday, with the goal of raising a US$200,000 fund for underprivileged children.
Having worked in Vietnam for seven and five years, respectively, Norris and Down embarked on this journey as a way to give back for 'what [they] have received.'
“I finally had time to really start planning something, something that would create significant change,” Norris said.
“I wanted to give back to the country and its people who have given me so much.”
Embarking on a three-month journey, walking 2,000km from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City via the challenging Ho Chi Minh Trail -- a mountainous route never before attempted -- these friends aim to raise over $200,000 for their cause.
Asked why he chose to walk, Norris answered that they could do the funding much more effectively in that manner.
“No one's really going to give as much money as we're trying to raise if we ride a motorbike from north to south, or if we ride a pushbike. But walking is quite a massive challenge,” Norris told Tuoi Tre News.
Departing from the Hanoi Opera House, the two will walk to Cuc Phuong National Park in Ninh Binh Province.
From there, following the Ho Chi Minh Trail, Norris and Down will walk to Nghe An Province and Phong Nha Township, located in Quang Binh Province.
Starting from Phong Nha, the duo will traverse the coastal route to reach Dong Hoi City in Quang Binh. From there, they will continue their journey over the Hai Van Pass, passing through Da Nang, Hoi An, and Tuy Hoa, situated in Phu Yen Province.
Following their route, they will proceed from Tuy Hoa, walking inland to reach Dak Lak Province in the Central Highlands before making their way to Ho Chi Minh City.
The two promise it will be 100 percent walking, with no GrabBike rides, no pushbikes, no trains, no buses, no hitchhiking.
They expect to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City in February.
The duo is also prepared for challenges on the road, anticipating harsh weather conditions and the potential for flooding when they reach Hue, Da Nang, or Hoi An along the central coast.
Down emphasized the importance of their mental health.
“It's just extraordinarily tough to get out of bed and face another day of walking. You're going to have blisters in your hips and your knees and your ankles and your back will be sore,” he said.
They plan to stop at every orphanage on their way and look forward to engaging with the local communities and raising awareness of how many kids need help in Vietnam.
As animal lovers, they will also stop at animal shelters along the route.
Both will update their journey on social media through platforms like Instagram or TikTok.
Followers can pose challenges for them, thereby increasing engagement and interest in fundraising efforts.
“I'm actually doing the walk in flip-flops. It's an Australian fashion statement. We're hoping that a lot more Australians put their hands in their pockets when they think ‘he’s a bit mad’,” Norris said.
Half of the cash Norris and Down raise will be donated to Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, which fights to end human trafficking.
The second charity to benefit from the walk will be the Thanh Loc Project, which provides education for underprivileged children as well as builds classrooms, libraries, and homes for families.