China champions trek 50km for 50 years of UON

Annie Nichols talks about her 50km Great Wall of China walk to raise funds for scholarships.

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In my first year of my Physiotherapy degree, I was fortunate enough to be awarded a $4,000 Shaping Futures Scholarship. This money helped me pay for my living expenses, rent, petrol and textbooks – it was a godsend.

And strangely it also set me on the path to China.

I’m one of 16 University of Newcastle alumni, staff members, students and community supporters who have jetted off to China to walk a 50 kilometre section of the majestic Great Wall to celebrate the University’s 50th year.

The scholarship made attending university possible, life at home was pretty tough but attending university was something I had to do to achieve my goal of working in healthcare. I was very fortunate to be awarded this scholarship and now in my final year, it only seemed appropriate to give back so fellow students could have the same opportunity.

During this walk, I will be rooming with Josephine Thompson, a mother of two young boys and a fellow full time student studying a Bachelor of Arts/Science. Jo decided to take on the challenge because growing up she was also disadvantaged, so she thought a good way to give back was to embark on this journey. Jo has not only fundraised for others but had to find means of paying her own ways, “as a part of my challenge, I sought casual employment to fund my travel expenses”.

Collectively, Josephine and I have raised more than $5,000 by cooking hundreds of sausages, making a Samoan feast, selling raffle tickets, having an exercise class, 100 clubs and seeking the support of friends, family and colleagues. Every cent raised will go to the Shaping Futures Scholarships.

To date, this intrepid group of ‘China Champions’ has raised almost $75,000, which will go to the Shaping Futures Scholarships, which assist students facing financial hardships or challenges.

One of the ‘champions’ UON staff member, Tanya Carlyle, reflected on the group’s achievements and is proud that the money raised will fund 17 scholarships.

“It has been a lot of work but we have all helped each other with our fundraising goals. We have all been challenged by the effort involved in training for the 50 kilometres of trekking what is reported to be difficult terrain.

“As a group, we hope to be able to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience as well as offer each other support and encouragement along the way. Ultimately, we want our generous donors to feel proud, knowing that by sponsoring us to undertake this challenge, they are helping to ease the financial burden on students.”

For this wonderful cultural and physical experience and the chance to give back to a wonderful cause, I would like to thank the Confucius Institute for sponsoring my trip.

And on behalf of Jo and myself, we would like to thank our families, friends, staff of the university, colleagues and fellow students for all their support.