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Canberra Today 7°/11° | Monday, May 16, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Poverty pushes Matt through the ‘gates of hell’

Charity walker Matt Napier… off to one of the most “uninhabitable parts of the earth”, the Namib Desert in Africa. Photo by Danielle Nohra

WHAT some hikers take a few days to do, Wanniassa resident Matt Napier will do in one.

Matt, who recently turned 40, will walk 40 kilometres or more daily in unknown landscapes until he’s at the point of exhaustion.

It might seem insane for someone to push themselves to such limits, but Matt believes he has it easy.

“There’s people in wheelchairs who would give anything to get up and walk on a blister or blind people who would do anything to see what I see,” Matt says.

With help from his wife Wendy, the couple are passionate about raising awareness and making a difference.

Since meeting through a mutual friend and marrying in 2008, they have created a local charity called Walk to a Better World, which they run on top of their business, Garden Makeovers and Maintenance.

The idea for the charity came from a trip to Nepal in 2006, which later inspired Matt to participate in many solo walking and cycling challenges to raise awareness and funds for global poverty.

“It was the first time that I’ve seen extreme poverty first hand,” says Matt.

“Children four and five were begging and children were dying on the street.”

To help rid the world of such devastations Matt continues to walk, with his next journey in June, where he will follow one of the most “uninhabitable parts of the earth”, the Namib Desert in Africa or “the gates of hell”.

During the 1850km walk from the bottom of Namibia to Angola, Matt will tackle 250-metre-high sand dunes, wildlife threats and isolation.

Along the way, Wendy will be driving the support vehicle ahead of Matt as well as preparing food and treating blisters.

They aim to raise $20,000 for each of their charity partners, Caritas Australia and Empower Projects, to fund sustainable development initiatives including permaculture training at primary schools in rural Malawi.

Wendy describes her involvement as a “job” where emotions need to be kept aside.

“Every now and then I get a little anxious when I think that I’ve lost Matt though,” she says.

But Matt’s usually caught up kicking a soccer ball with people he’s met along the way.

He believes that sport is a powerful tool to form connections with people from different cultures.

In Botswana Wendy, who describes herself as fairly fit, joined Matt for 48km, which was one day of walking, and realised how physically and mentally taxing the walks are.

“The thing that impressed me was pushing on when it’s tough and then being able to get up and go out 40 days in a row,” Wendy says.

“It’s not just about being physically fit, 90 per cent of it is above the shoulders.”

What keeps Matt mentally strong are the stories he hears along the way, including one involving a woman on a previous walk.

“She had four children, her eldest had passed away, her second child had HIV, her third had a mental illness and the fourth was a victim of a hit and run, paralysed from the waist down,” he says.

“They lived in a two metre by two metre shed and earnt about seven Australian dollars from the government, that is when the government would pay them.”

Matt also recalls the story of a lady in Ethiopia who walked for three weeks straight to get to a refugee camp and her son died the next day.

“We’re trying to encourage Australians to do more, we’re a very wealthy country but we’re not pulling our weight,” Matt says.

And it seems that Matt and Wendy won’t stop until that happens, with preparations for the world’s largest marathon already underway for 2018.

Further information at or call 0437 306330


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Danielle Nohra

Danielle Nohra

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