Although he never could have realised it at the time, Matt Napier’s world was destined to change forever when he visited Nepal back in 2007. For the first time in his life, Matt was exposed to extreme poverty. The sight of kids begging on the street with no education ahead had a lasting impact on Matt and planted the seeds in his mind that had him asking questions such as:
- Why are some people granted more privileged lives than others?
- How can living in the First World or the Third World simply be a stroke of luck awarded at birth?
Fast-forward to 2016 and Matt is no stranger in terms of doing his bit raising awareness for global poverty. He’s already cycled and walked across Australia and now, his Walk to a Better World initiative, is set to push him physically and mentally more than anything he’s ever done before.
Starting his walk in Namibia and finishing in Mozambique, Matt will embark on a 3 month journey that will see him walking a total of 2.250km. His trek will be filmed as a documentary as he lives on just US $1.25 worth of food per day to illustrate just how hard it is to survive on so little. He will also be kicking and/or carrying a soccer ball along the way as a means to connect with people from all walks of life.
Matt sat down with the Campaign for Australian Aid team to answer a few questions ahead of his inspiring adventure.
Campaign: Many people visit Nepal and see first-hand what you saw back in 2007. Why do you think you just couldn’t shake or forget about your experiences like many others do?
Matt: I think it really resonated with me because that could so easily have been me. The only reason it wasn’t me is that I’m lucky enough for some reason to be born into the privileged life so many of us lead here in Australia. These people that were slowly dying on the streets from lack of food and clean water are no different to me – I just couldn’t look a fellow human in the eye that needed help and turn my back on them. I believe every human should have the right to food, clean water, basic healthcare and an education. I want to see Australia, my country, doing more in terms of ensuring everyone in the world has access to these four essentials.
C: You first raised global awareness by cycling from Perth to Canberra in 2012. What happened in those 5 years between visiting Nepal and your first awareness raising effort?
M: This is a tough question to answer. After returning from Nepal, I had a mortgage to pay off so I decided to work as hard as I could to get myself into a better financial position so I could take large periods of time off to raise awareness of global poverty and to act as a voice for the world’s poor. My wife Wendy and I, would often work in our garden maintenance business for up to 70 to 80 hours a week with the goal of selling the business one day to become full time poverty ambassadors. In 2012, I sold half of the business before joining forces with the Make Poverty History campaign and cycling from Perth to Canberra.
The ride was called The Long Ride to Stop the Poverty Cycle and took 6 weeks to complete. The following year, we sold the other half of the business and I walked from Perth to Sydney for the same cause. This time, the walk was called The Global Poverty Walk. The 4500km walk took 5 months to complete and was done bouncing an AFL footy the whole way.
Since completing the walk in June 2013, we have started up the Canberra branch of Opportunity To Do and hold regular garage sales from our house every 6 weeks. People donate their unwanted goods to us and we sell them with all proceeds going towards helping some of the world’s poor break the poverty cycle. We do this by funding sustainable projects and at times, by taking out interest free micro financing loans. We have funded a range of projects from piggeries to chook pens and also pre-school and permaculture farming.
C: Why have you selected Africa for your most ambitious journey to date?
M: I chose Africa because the 10 poorest countries in the world are located there. It saddens me greatly to know that one in three children in Africa are chronically undernourished, yet so many people in the developed world turn a blind eye to it. I am planning on spending time in villages along the way to get a better understanding of poverty, and I’ll be making a documentary that aims to show the human side of extreme poverty and the effect it has on families. We need to tell stories that viewers can relate to in their own lives, as a way to convince more people to contribute funds to combat global poverty.
I am expecting this walk to be a real eye opener for me. I am sure the walk will only make me want to be more of a voice for the world’s poor as we fight for equality in this world. One of the main things I want to get out of this is sharing the message that we are all human and that we should leave no stone unturned in helping the world’s poor break the poverty cycle. We have done some fantastic work by halving the number of people living in extreme poverty since 1990, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
Tony Milne, our Campaign Director here at Campaign for Australian Aid, will be one of Matt’s Ambassadors supporting his incredible effort.
Learn more about Walk to a Better World here.