Yahoo! Singapore presents "Life's Journeys," an inspirational series of articles featuring people who have made that big step to make their lives more than ordinary.
by Elaine Ee, for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
Just ask Kyle Neo. The freelance graphic designer, singer and avid backpacker is participating in a 15-day, 370-kilometre walk from Bangkok to the Burmese border to raise funds and awareness against human trafficking. Organised by Freedom to Walk – a campaign that uses our “freedom to walk” to help those who have been trafficked and are trying to survive – this gruelling but fulfilling activity is something that’s now close to his heart.
“Joining this walk was a spontaneous decision,” admits Kyle. The volunteer was in Mom Chailai Forest Retreat, just outside the southern Thai town of Kanchanaburi, when Yahoo! Singapore rang him. “I wasn’t going to travel till July 2013, when I was planning to do a big overland trip from Thailand to Singapore for a cancer charity. But then I found out about this walk and the cause it supports. The more I read about human trafficking, the more concerned I became.”
His decision was also influenced by his birthday, as it “coincided with the walk. So instead of getting gifts this year, I thought I would ask people to donate to a cause I believe in.”
Though the “walking” he talks about here sounds easy, it isn’t exactly. “The first two days were exhausting; I felt depleted,” says Kyle. “But as the days went by, I got used to the pace and the weather. I knew how to prepare myself. The hardest part was waking up at 5 am. It’s great now, though – I’m feeling good.”
The kind and generous strangers he and his volunteers have met also make up for it. “On our third or fourth day, we stopped outside a church to wait for some of our group to catch up,” shares Kyle. “We were tired and just wanted to finish our day. To our surprise, the people in the church opened their arms and invited us in for lunch. After they heard about what we were doing, they wanted to conduct a service or blessing for us. So we ended up eating together, supporting each other – and I sang for them. They gave us just what we needed at the time we needed it.”
What’s more, donations continued to pour in, and Kyle reached his target of raising US$5,000. “I thought I might raise half, but I managed to reach my whole target – and just a few days after my birthday too,” he says proudly. “People were so generous; some donated just because of me. That was very humbling, and I had to learn how to receive graciously. Every morning I woke up dizzy with gratitude.”
The walk ends on 17 November at the Three Pagodas Pass in the Thai-Burmese border. This is where stateless refugees live – people who are vulnerable and at risk of being trafficked. The route that Kyle and his fellow volunteers took from Bangkok to this point is the same one that traffickers use to get their victims from here to the Thai capital.
“I will continue volunteering either as a translator or to raise awareness on human trafficking. This walk has taught me that when do you something wholeheartedly and for the good of others – whether or not you have the resources – people will start giving to you just when you need it. They won’t give you more, they won’t give you less; they give what you need at that moment. I find this very hopeful.”
To find out more about Freedom to Walk, visit www.freedomtowalk.org.