Sydney family trekking trio keen to make a difference in Myanmar

When Matthew Clark (centre) returns to school after the Summer holidays he will have an incredible story to tell his classmates.

The 15-year-old from Roseville will head to Myanmar on January 30 with parents Vera and Stuart to take part in the Trek to Reach Out, a twelve-day adventure exploring the rugged landscape of a country steeped in history.

Together, the trio will celebrate Matthew's 16th birthday in the trip's final days, making the occasion extra special.

‘I think it’ll be cool to celebrate [my birthday] in another country,’ says the Hornsby Spiders basketballer, adding that he won’t be expecting gifts this year. ‘Giving to others is a good gift in itself.’

The Clarks are taking up the challenge—which is run by Catholic Mission and Inspired Adventures—to raise vital funds for children’s and community projects, some of which they will visit during their trip.

Matthew says he is intrigued by the contrast. ‘I’m keen to meet the kids and see how school in Myanmar compares to the “leafy North Shore”,’ he says.

Stuart agrees it will be an eye-opening experience. ‘Meeting and talking to children in need will be a challenge for me. I want to help people immediately, but I have to look at the bigger picture; it has to be done in a sustainable way. The funds we raise will sustain these programs.’

The idea to get involved came from Vera, a long-time supporter of Catholic Mission who was inspired by a friend working in international aid in Myanmar. ‘He highly recommended going to the country soon, before tourism really takes off and while it is still unspoiled,’ she says.

‘I wanted to join the Ride to Reach Out in Cambodia last year, but the timing was better this time around to travel and support Catholic Mission.’

Trek To Reach Out

Stuart was quick to sign up with his wife, relishing the opportunity to see another part of the world and to give back to the community, but Matthew says his decision took some time. ‘I needed a little convincing, but soon realised it would be fun and a great experience, not just for me, but for those I’m raising money for.’

As for the physical challenge of hiking over 60 kilometres in a tropical, mountainous climate, Vera admits it will be a step up. ‘I am a bit worried about hiking up to eight hours per day,’ she says. ‘We do walk and hike, but mostly for two to three hours max. This will be a challenge for all three of us!’

The family has set up a fundraising page, working towards a target of nearly $10,000, funds that will support projects in education, health and community development. The three intrepid explorers will have the opportunity to visit the people and the projects their funds will directly support.

When they step off the plane in Myanmar and hit the hiking trail, the Clarks will be missing one member of the family. Vera and Stuart’s older son William won’t be joining the hike, but has been the trio’s biggest supporter, baking cookies and slices for a recent parish bake sale, donating his own money and getting the word out. As a teacher in training, William will also inspire the family as they visit education projects.

‘William is in teacher’s college, and we have plenty of teachers in the family, so the support Catholic Mission gives to education is particularly inspiring to us,’ says Vera. ‘In turn, our family and friends and our community here on the North Shore are right behind us in supporting these critical projects.’

Having already raised over $7,000, the Clarks are confident they can make a significant contribution to Catholic Mission’s projects in the Land of the Golden Pagodas.

Equally, Vera, Stuart and Matthew are certain they will take plenty away from the experience. ‘It is easy to become insular, especially here on the North Shore,’ says Vera.

‘I’m hoping this adventure will open my heart more and connect me in a deeper way to humanity.’

‘A journey like this provides us with a deeper sense of gratitude for living in a beautiful safe country like Australia,’ Stuart adds.

As for Matthew, he hopes to grow more than just a year older on the trip. ‘I hope to feel like I’ve experienced the world a lot more and gained a bit of maturity. It will be interesting to meet different people with completely different ways of living.’

You can support the Clarks and get updates ahead of and during their Trek to Reach Out by heading to their fundraising page (see below).

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