x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Great Wall walk intrepid fund-raiser's fourth charity challenge in four years

Girish Shivanand is about to take part in his fourth gruelling charity challenge in as many years - this time, to help out blind orphans.

Girish Shivanand packs his bag before heading off on his fourth Gulf For Good challenge.
Girish Shivanand packs his bag before heading off on his fourth Gulf For Good challenge.

Girish Shivanand is about to take part in his fourth gruelling charity challenge in as many years.

The 37-year-old, a research and development manager for Unilever, is on his way to Beijing where he will raise money for blind orphans in Beijing by walking the length of the Great Wall of China.

Girish left for China on Thursday, along with 22 other participants from 12 nations who are taking part in the eight-day Wild Wall Challenge, during which they will walk for up to seven hours each day.

Organised by the UAE charity Gulf For Good, their aim is to raise money to pay for a water-therapy pool for the Beijing-based charity Bethel China, which helps visually impaired orphans.

Gulf For Good has already managed to raise more than Dh280,000 for the project.

Girish, an Indian national who lives in Dubai, said that since his first Gulf For Good challenge, a hike to Peru's Machu Picchu in 2009, he likes to "give back to a new country every year".

Since then, he has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and last year, he trekked through Borneo. All the trips raised vital funding for aid projects in those venues.

He chose to join the China trip because of the important work carried out by the charity.

"When a blind child is born in rural areas of China, they often outcast them and they get neglected," he said. "I feel I need to contribute to this and bring awareness."

Bethel's 60 blind orphans will be given therapeutic swimming lessons in the new pool, along with 200 other children from nearby orphanages

Patricia Anderson, Gulf For Good's head of communications, said the pool was one of the main things on the charity's wish list.

"This was a defined item on the list that they really needed," she said.

Also taking part in the challenge are the Emirati mother and daughter Naila Al Mahmood and Sara Kazim.

For Ms Al Mahmood, a mother of five, the trip is the culmination of a lifelong dream to visit China's Great Wall and to get in shape.

Ms Al Mahmood said she has been training five to six times a week to prepare.

"I used to be overweight," she said, but has lost 50 kilograms in three years. "Going on this challenge is a reward for myself to see how fit I am."

Ms Al Mahmood, who teaches Muslims and non-Muslims how to recite the Quran, also convinced her daughter Sara, 24, to join her.

Both were inspired by Sara's older sister, Butheina, 28, who trekked Nepal's Annapurna Circuit in 2009 to raise money to help build an orphanage.

"She has planted a seed in the family," Ms Al Mahmood said, "and it's growing."

molson@thenational.ae