An Australian missionary set out on a long, hard road this past weekend, seeking to raise money and awareness for impoverished children in India by walking more than 1,000 km (over 621 miles) as a part of her Walk For The Kids project.
Beverley Hughes hopes to raise awareness – and raise funds – for the plight of the children of the Dalit, a group of approximately 250 million Indians who are considered by others in their country to be “Untouchables.”
The Dalit are poor and often cannot afford even the most basic necessities, including food, shelter and clothing. According to the website for Go The Extra Mile, a Christian organization that helped inspire Hughes to start her journey, the Dalit are segregated from the rest of society and are forbidden to worship in temples or use village wells. They are often barred from receiving an education.
Hughes said she saw the devastating conditions that Dalit children were forced to live in while she lived in India as a Christian missionary for 2 ½ years. After becoming sick from contaminated drinking water, she moved to Australia, but soon realized that she had grown complacent with her life.
“I was laying in bed one day and was thinking I wanted to do something different with my life and help others. I was tired of becoming complacent with my daily routine and just being happy and satisfied with everything around me,” she wrote in a blog post.
One of the primary reasons Hughes said she's doing the walk is simply “to help others and make a change.”
“So many times people see the injustice around us and feel sorry for what’s going on, without ever doing something about it. I want to be a person who does something about it. I don’t want to look at my own needs and wants in life; there is so much more to life than that. It’s amazing how many lives can be changed through a small idea and doing something for them.”
The world “Dalit” can literally be interpreted to mean “broken” or “crushed,” and the Indians are considered by others to be less than human.
“In India, a cow is better treated than a Dalit,” wrote Joseph Raju, executive director of Gospel Missions of India, in an email to The Christian Post Wednesday.
Raju commended the work Hughes is doing, and said that helping the Dalits out of poverty and leading them to Christ is the best way to aid them.
“The upper class will never recognize them or accept them, irrespective of how much they are changed, educated and wealthy, because the caste system in India is so blind and unreasonable,” he said.
“What she (Hughes) can do is to continue to work with Christian community to change the heart of these upper class people and also these Dalits.”
Raju said that Christian schools in India are some of the best tools to educate the Dalits in academic, social and spiritual matters.
Every cent that Hughes raises from her walk will be donated to help Dalit families through Bridge of Hope, a children's outreach program operated by Gospel for Asia. Bridge of Hope operates centers like Raju mentioned, which educate and minister to impoverished children.
Hughes won't be alone on her trip either. In addition to the many walkers who will join her for shorter sections of her journey, friend Joni Hoel will also be accompanying Hughes for the entire way.
Hoel explained why she wanted to take the long walk in a blog post from late September:
“I was crying out, ‘God I just want to be able to help people, to make their dreams come true but I can’t, I don’t have the resources,’” she wrote. “And now I realize He said, 'You have feet, you can walk – use those to help people and make someone’s dream come true.'”
According to Christian Today, Hughes and Hoel began the 43 day-trip Saturday, at the famous Sydney Opera House. They plan to end the walk in Melbourne on Nov. 13, with a 45K, all-night walking event called "Moonwalk."
Moonwalk is being organized by Go the Extra Mile, which has raised more than $300,000 for needy children in the last two years through similar events.