Stevey throws down the gauntlet

Public challenged to complete a barefoot lap of the Mall next Tuesday in aid of Belarus orphans

Stevey throws down the gauntlet

Stevey McGeown - barefoot for the whole of December

John Hooks

Reporter:

John Hooks

ARMAGH man Stevey McGeown has thrown down the gauntlet to local people as he approaches the halfway mark in his latest endurance challenge.
Famous for running 100 marathons in 100 days, Stevey is now going the entire month of December barefoot to raise awareness and money for children in poverty-stricken Belarus.
After his No Shoes for Belarus challenge Stevey will fly to the eastern european country in January to deliver aid to orphanages.
However before then he has challenged local people to join him for a barefoot lap of the Mall next Tuesday (December 18) at 1pm.
“I’d love to see as many people on the Mall as possible next Tuesday. I want to share my experiences of visiting Belarus last year with the International Orphan Development Programme and hopefully people will donate some money as we complete a lap of the Mall in our bare feet,” said Stevey.
Stevey is approaching the halfweay mark in his latest challenge and so far he says the cold weather has been his biggest problem.
“It is amazing how quickly the body adaps to being barefoot,” he said.
“My feet have toughened up, and although I may be walking a little slower, getting about hasn’t been a problem.
“However the cold weather has been a bit of a nightmare, I have certainly been feeling the cold which makes things tough.”
Stevey says the latest challenge has been a great way to start conversations about the plight of young people in Belarus – although one person did offer to buy him some shoes after seeing him in the city centre and thinking he was homeless!
“People have been coming up to me and asking what I am doing which is great and so far donations have started to roll in. Some businesses have also asked for donation buckets which is fantastic.”
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 country with the money coming from so many different fundraising events.
“Collections were held in Armagh, there were cake sales, sponsored walks, you name it.”
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.
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.
To donate to Stevey’s latest challenge log onto the Team Belarus page at  www.gofundme.com/orphan-children-of-belarus.

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