Interview: The Long Well Walk
Forge Press spoke to The Long Well Walk’s Liam Garcia this week, a.k.a. Sheffield’s altruistic answer to Forrest Gump. He is planning to walk for 18 months solid in order to raise awareness and money for those who are affected by the deficient water and sanitation aid available in certain parts of Africa.
Yep, you read that right, an 18 month walk. And you thought Conduit Road was a trek…
First of all, what is The Long Well Walk? And who does it help?
The Long Well Walk is a small volunteering charity in Sheffield and we work towards helping small communities in sub-Saharan Africa develop water and sanitation projects. The beneficiaries are mainly small communities who have not had access to water and sanitation or ‘WASH’ support previously.
What are you actually going to be doing on your walk?
I’m going to be walking from Sheffield to Cape Town through 16 countries, covering 11,000 miles, and stopping off at ten or eleven projects. I’ll visit them to raise awareness, film, talk to the beneficiaries, get the story of what’s going on in each community to show not only the donors back in the UK what’s going on but also show the ways organisations in similar circumstances solve the same problems.
Why such an arduous journey and what made you think of it?
Arduous because we want to get people to donate – the more pain I go through hopefully the bigger the story and hopefully the more money we’ll raise through it.
I’m walking from Sheffield because it’s my home town , it’s my community, it’s where I grew up and it’s linking that with places with much fewer resources.
How much physical preparation have you had to undergo for the walk? Do you think you’re prepared seeing as you’re leaving in less than a month?
I had a pint for lunch… no but I’ve been doing a lot of walking, a lot of extreme physical training, like martial arts but then that had the risk of injury so I didn’t want to keep doing that… so at the moment it’s just walking and carrying a big pack on my back with lots of weight in it.
We walked from Manchester to Sheffield a week and a half ago then went out for another walk the next day, so I did about fifty something miles that weekend. I’d like to think I’m prepared.
How have you organised such a large-scale project like this?
It’s taken about two and a half years to organise, mainly to learn the different areas, learn some of the different languages, make contact with people in each country, build up relationships with the people who will support us in each country, get sponsors, get security details for different areas, get support vehicles… There’s a huge amount of work that needs to be done, the logistics of it is pretty crazy but it’s also important not to over-plan and be comfortable in plans changing every day. Regardless of the route I’ve got mapped out at the moment I know it’s going to change every day – for example the south of England is flooded right now so I know I’m not going to be doing the same route I was planning to through there.
What sort of things are you doing to get donations?
There are a lot of local events going on in Sheffield and we’re trying to get celebrity endorsements as well.
The aim is to use the walk itself, get press support as I walk through London and if anything happens on the walk there will likely be a news story and that will hopefully cause a spike in donations. Most likely we’ll raise the most of our money towards the end of the walk when we come back and the documentary we’re filming will be shown.
How are you going to survive? Are you taking money and supplies that will last you or are you just going to improvise?
I’ll be taking my bank card and will have a small amount of cash on me, but I’ll be carrying food on my back and carrying three different types of stoves with me. I can go into intense detail about the stoves if you want…
Haha that’s okay. So, how are you going to actually navigate your way there?
I’ve got a compass, a map on my kindle and a small GPS device as well, so I should be alright.
How do your friends and family feel about you doing this?
My friends are happy to see the back of me and my family are hopefully going to be sad.
Are you at all scared of getting yourself into trouble or a dangerous situation?
Yeah something will definitely happen – something’s happened on every trip I’ve done so far. I got robbed at knifepoint in Romania when I was 22, robbed in America, in Spain… I’ve been robbed a few times. I’m bricking it about the lions… but the important thing is not letting that fear get in the way of the cause.
What do you think you’ll miss most about home?
Whiskey? No, not whiskey… I’ll really miss Richmond sausages; they’re so bad, they’re good.
What would you say to people who would like to do something like this for charity but have no idea where to start?
Come along and join us on the walk! It depends on what you want to do, the most important thing is finding out something you actually want to do because if you find out halfway through you haven’t got the motivation then you’ve already made the commitment and you’ll find out you’re absolutely screwed.
What are you going to do when you get back?
Eat, sleep, lie in an ice bath, eat a lot of cake, have my 30th birthday… hopefully not be in hospital, though I’m sure I will be.
What about jobs and stuff?
I’ve no idea what’s going to happen on the walk so I can’t think that far ahead…
Do you think you’ll actually make it?
Yeah, I don’t know what state I’ll be in but I’m sure I’ll make it.
Lastly – how can people donate?
They can go to the http://thelongwellwalk.org/ and click ‘donate’ or come along to some of the events.
All donations go to creating sustainable community projects as The Long Well Walk is exclusively run by volunteers and vows never to use donations to cover salary costs.
Donate and track exactly where your money is going by visiting the website at http://thelongwellwalk.org/ or check out volunteering positions still available by clicking on ‘Get Involved’.