Life is full of challenges. Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and to the next level can have a great impact on our confidence, physical ability or mental health. And these challenges can be even more rewarding when you have a team with you, working towards the same goal, pushing and supporting each other along the way. The Oxfam Trailwalker has for the past 15 years seen 19,000 Kiwis overcome challenges and achieve goals, all while raising over $15 million in the name of tackling poverty in the Pacific. From providing clean water and sanitation in Papua New Guinea, to helping farmers in Timor-Leste better adapt to climate change and increase their income, Oxfam Aotearoa have supported our Pacific neighbours by tackling the root cause of poverty with practical and innovative solutions.
The Trailwalker has been key in helping Oxfam Aotearoa continue their work in the Pacific, while having the added benefit of pushing New Zealanders out of their comfort zone.
Working in teams of four, participants of any fitness level can choose to walk either 50km (in under 18 hours) or 100km (in under 36 hours) and must have a goal to raise $2,000 per team. Considered New Zealand’s greatest endurance challenge, the Oxfam Trailwalker takes place on 26th March 2022 on a beautiful, exclusive Taranaki trail, encouraging participants to challenge themselves and challenge the root causes of injustice that lead to poverty.
With so many previous participants, the Oxfam Trailwalker has been the place for many life-changing moments. We spoke to Carmen Castro-Verbeek of IncaFe Coffee, who not only participated in the 2021 Trailwalker but also sponsored the event by providing coffee to participants at checkpoints along the way. We asked Carmen about why she signed up for Trailwalker, how she went about training and fundraising, and how it felt to achieve a personal goal while also having an impact on those living in poverty.
You run an organic and ethical coffee company, IncaFe Organic Coffee, which provided coffee for participants at checkpoints along the 2021 Trailwalker. You obviously have a passion for ethical practices. Was this alignment of values what inspired you to get involved in the Oxfam Trailwalker?
Absolutely. From the moment I saw the ad for the OTW, I was drawn to it. I decided to join, and to look for a team afterwards. Once I had joined, I wanted to do more, so I contacted the OTW team and offered to become a sponsor.
I didn’t know in which way I could help, but the OTW team were fantastic, and after a few talks we agreed to provide free coffee and hot chocolates at all checkpoints, and I will do so for the following OTW too.
How did you prepare for the Trailwalker?
I was very lucky to have a great team. All three of them had more experience than me, but we had wonderful camaraderie and support. We all have jobs, and young children, so we committed to train on our own during the week and to train together on the weekends, following the OTW training guide, which by the way was very helpful.
The longest walk we did took us about 8 hours if I remember well, towards the end of our training.
What or who was your biggest motivator?
Without wanting to sound selfish, myself. This was a personal challenge. Obviously, I wanted to make my family, my children, proud… but I needed to conquer this, and it felt awesome when we did.
My husband and kids supported me 100 percent and made sure I put in the hours.
While there’s obviously the satisfaction of achieving a personal goal by doing the Trailwalker, how did it feel knowing that you were achieving something beyond your own goals with the fundraising?
Fantastic. I was blown away by the generosity and support of our friends. Initially, we were scared we would not meet the target, but we managed to raise close to $5,000.
To know that the OTW raised a record $1.2 million is breathtaking. Knowing that your fundraising efforts will help small communities in the Pacific makes it all worthwhile
What was the biggest surprise during the Trailwalker?
I was amazed by the event as a whole. The amount of people that participated, the camaraderie along the way, the volunteers along the streets cheering us on, our beautiful support crew who went out of their way to make us feel comfortable… plus, the fantastic Taranaki weather we had that day. Could not have had a better day for it.
How long did it take?
A bit less than 13 hours. It took us 11 hours and 40 minutes of walking, plus an hour spent on breaks.
How did you feel once you crossed the finish line?
It was an amazing feeling. The last hour was the hardest; walking on very tired feet, with blisters, but you just want to get there.
My kids and my husband walked the last kilometre with us. We were all so happy. My team and support crew were fantastic. I will love these girls forever.
How did you go about fundraising?
We all approached friends, family, businesses, plus we held a Bingo Night and a Quiz Night well in advance.
Do you have any fundraising tips for others?
Start early, be creative. Approach businesses and tell them what you are doing, most of them will want to chip in. Remember, every little bit counts.
Would you do it again? If so, what’s your main driver?
I would do it again, however, my husband is tempted to do it this year, and so are my work colleagues, so we’ll have to come up with a plan as it is a big commitment, especially the training.
The main driver is raising funds for people who are less fortunate than us, while challenging yourself, physically and emotionally. I’d encourage anyone who is tempted to do it, to give it a go. It is a wonderful experience.
Challenge yourself and help tackle poverty in the Pacific by signing up to the Oxfam Trailwalker now.
Photos by Artur Francisco/Oxfam