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No Shoes for Belarus

John Hooks

Reporter:

John Hooks

Email:

john.hooks@ulstergazette.co.uk

HE has completed 100 marathons in 100 days, 60 ultra marathons in 60 days, raced against a horse for 24 hours and now Armagh man Stevey McGeown is set to launch his latest endurance challenge - all in the name of charity.

‘No Shoes for Belarus’ will see Stevey go the whole month of December barefoot in a bid to raise money and awareness of the plight of children in the poverty-stricken eastern european country.

And soon after putting his shoes back on he will be boarding a plane for Minsk to deliver much needed aid and supplies to orphaned children.

Last year Stevey joined a team from the charity, International Orphan Development Programme, (IODP) for an aid trip to Belarus and what he saw there had a profund effect on him.

“We visited five orphanages in the week we were there as well as a prison for young people, it was heartbreaking to see these kids living they way are,” said Stevey.

 “We spent £47,000 delivering supplies and Christmas presents to 19 orphanages throughout the clountry with the money coming from so many different fundraising events.

“Collections were held in Armagh, there were cake sales, sponsored walks, you name it.”

However one of the biggest donations came via an auction for a pair of Stevey’s shoes during a trip to Tokyo.

“I was in Japan delivering a motivational talk during a cryptocurrency convention. I told the story of my 100 marathons challenge and in the end my shoes were sold for £5000 at auction for the Belarus trip. Those same shoes made it to Dubai after they were bought again for £13,000. It was incredible to see the generosity of people and I know the people will be pleased that their money was put to such good use in Belarus.”

Stevey visited a prison for young people during his first trip to Belarus and he found it hard to witness the conditions the young people were living in.

“There were children aged just seven but they were in prison for whatever reason, they had their heads shaved and were dressed in military clothes, it was heartbreaking to see.

“In the orphanages we had asked the children to make requests for what they would like from Santa and time and time again we kept getting asked for blankets, kettles and irons. We thought someone was trying to force the children into asking for these items and then take them away once we had left but we later found out that this was the children stockpiling things they would need when they eventually left the orphanage.”

Stevey got involved with the charity, and has since become one of its directors, after meeting its founder, Tom McEnaney during his 60 ultra marathons in 60 days challenge.

“Tom really impressed me and what really attracted me was the charity donates 100% of what it raises,” said Stevey.

The team is heading back to Belarus on January 1 for a week to bring some Christmas joy to 500 physically or mentally challenged kids. Every single penny raised will be spent on the orphanages – all volunteers must pay their own board and food.

IODP have raised £3.5 million in recent years and all of the money has been spent on orphanage improvements - hot water showers, beds, linen, books and libraries and bringing Santa to the kids.

It is the fundraising for the trip that has led Stevey to attempt his latest challenge.

“I think this challenge will be a great way to not only raise money but start a conversation with people about what is happening in Belarus,” said Stevey.

“You will see me out and about and I would love if people stopped me for a chat about why I am going barefoot.

“I want people to share this news and donate via my Go Fund Me page. I will be doing a street collection in Armagh on Christmas Eve and I would love it if people donated and came up to me for a chat.”

To donate to Stevey’s latest challenge simply log onto https://www.gofundme.com/orphan-children-of-belarus

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