Published on 30 January 2012
The Petrucco family is an ordinary family who has just undertaken a most extraordinary adventure – walking 800km from the west coast of India to the east coast in support of ChildFund Australia.
For six weeks over December and January, three generations of the Petrucco family (aged 3 to 64) – plus two family friends – formed a walk team that started from Kozhikode in the west to Chennai in the east, to raise awareness and much-needed funds for children living in poverty. They even became minor celebrities in India with hundreds of locals joining them along the way and close to 100 media stories covering their journey!
Through this Coast to Coast challenge, the Melbourne family has raised more than $55,000 for ChildFund Australia to support vulnerable children in India. They have also decided to sponsor a child, Mary, who they met during their visit.
“We just had that sense of wanting to make a bigger contribution and wanting to do something extraordinary,” says dad Nick Petrucco. “So we came up with this idea of really stepping up our efforts to raise awareness and funds for kids, and then that became: 'Let’s walk across India!’”
The family has come home with great stories to tell of their Indian adventure – from Nick getting Delhi belly in the very first week, to a close encounter with a snake, to seeing what life is like in some of the world’s poorest communities, to the challenges of taking on such an epic journey with your kids in tow! However, Nick says the highlight was visiting a number of villages along the way and seeing the difference that organisations like ChildFund can make.
“You sponsor a child, the whole community benefits – we were able to see that first hand,” he says. “In some villages we passed through, we saw kids not going to school, kids looking very malnourished. But in the communities where ChildFund has been working for a long time, most if not all the kids are going to school, physically they look healthier and there’s an awareness around kids’ safety and kids’ issues.”
Nick’s 13-year-old daughter India says it was tough seeing the poverty “and seeing children the same age as me having to live a so much harder life”. But the best part was having the opportunity to hand out the bicycles she’d fundraised so hard for to young girls in rural communities who have to walk incredibly long distances to the nearest school. “I met one girl who gets up every day in the dark and walks 17km, and then another 17km back in the afternoon – and only in sandals and a sari. I thought: Wow, here I was thinking poor me having to walk all this way across India, but then I get to go home to my beautiful lifestyle.”
While the journey was amazing, Nick says getting to the end was pure elation. “When we dived into the ocean in Chennai, that feeling was out of this world. And it was because we didn’t know if we could do it. You have to set yourself a goal that scares you a little bit. That’s where the challenge is and that’s where the elation comes from at the end.”
So what’s Nick’s advice to people who are inspired by their story? “Our family has two favourite quotes: ‘Be the change that you want to see in the world’ and ‘No one can do everything but everyone can do something’. We just decided to do something. It’s easy to get lost in the enormity of an issue like child poverty but once we started putting our energy into it, it was amazing how it came together.
“A lot of families won’t be able to fly to India and do what we did but most families could make contributions through something like child sponsorship. And you can write to that child and see that child grow up. It’s so nice to have that connection – this is actually a relationship you can form with that child and their family that can last for years.”
For more information about sponsoring a child, click here.
Feeling inspired? Check out this video!