CHICAGO, IL (July 29, 2010) – Amy Russell remembers, “I was sitting at home and the thought came to me, ‘You should walk across Africa.’ ”
Most people would brush such an intrusion aside, but for reasons the recent North Park University graduate can’t explain, Russell considered the idea, as if acceding to it were the obvious response. Then she figured other people should benefit from the trek, so she decided to raise money for water development in Africa. Click here to learn more.
Russell, who grew up attending Trinity Covenant Church in Manchester, Connecticut, plans to hike 7,000 miles up the east coast of the continent beginning next June and expects the journey to take up to two years. Russell understands why the first reaction people have is something akin to, “Are you out of your mind?”
Russell says God is calling her to make the trek, but adds, “It’s a bigger leap of faith than I’m used to.”
Russell has consistently demonstrated a passion for helping others. She invested a year between high school and college working with an organization that provided English as a second language classes in Mexico. She currently is working with the ministry in West Virginia. She also led a university chapter of the anti-trafficking organization International Justice Mission.
Russell is raising money for water development because, she says, much of the world’s poverty is directly related to water. “If you are going to eliminate poverty, that’s where you need to start.” The money will be donated equally among World Vision, Water 1st International, WaterAid, and Charity: Water.
She intends to travel from South Africa to Egypt. The coastal route is safer than making an east-west trip, although Russell will avoid Eritrea and Somalia. Russell also is avoiding the latitudinal journey because much of it is desert.
Russell planned to make the trip by herself, but others expressed interest as she shared her dream. “Suddenly I had a whole team going with me,” she says, laughing. “For me, it was a confirmation that this is what God wanted me to do.”
Aaron Tharp, a member of Jesus People USA Covenant Church, also is part of the team. Three of the five other team members also have matriculated at North Park: Drew Daniels, Nyawaraga Chuol, and Saada Hilts.
The team will make several long-distance hikes together as they prepare. Their level of experience varies from virtual beginner to long-time veterans.
They intend to have someone driving in a support vehicle that will lag behind by several days, but be available in case of emergency. The group wants all of the money they raise to benefit the development organizations and hopes someone will donate the vehicle.
Team members also would like to raise awareness of water issues as well as raise funds by speaking to congregations and civic groups and at other special events.
Russell graduated with a business degree in nonprofit management, but says she doesn’t know how she’ll put it to use after the journey. That’s a ways down the road.