Barefoot and raising money

Mother and daughter on barefoot walk

A 34 year-old woman and her two-year-old daughter arrived in Torrevieja on 3rd January on their journey from Barcelona to Gibraltar. Not only are they completing this journey on foot by they are doing it barefoot. Their very long walk began in Barcelona 53 days ago and together they will ultimately cover more than a thousand kilometres. The purpose of this gruelling trek is to raise money to buy shoes for children in Nairobi.

Ilse Longuet and her daughter Helinah have been enjoying the past few days of mild weather. During the very bad rains towards the end of December, they  took refuge in a campsite in Valencia. Now Ilse is relieved that the Spanish climate is proving to be more helpful to her mission. Whilst walking, Ilse has been learning and practising her Spanish and was able to talk openly to reporters about her life and her ambition.

Ilse is a guide in an interactive science museum in Ostend, Belgium. The intention is to purchase shoes for disadvantaged children who live in Kibera which is a suburb of Nairobi. Since November 11th she has been walking around 10 to 20km a day. Where possible she has walked along the beach or she uses secondary roads.

When asked if her feet were hurting she explained that her feet were fine but her back was suffering a little from carrying her daughter in an African-style baby carrier. During her quest Ilse has been greeted warmly by Spaniards and has been welcomed into their homes. Next she has been guaranteed accommodation in Cartagena and she is well on her way to having raised the €4,000 she is aiming to have collected by the time she arrives in Gibraltar.

There have been some moments, however, when Ilse has not felt quite so welcome. In a town north of Castellón she was detained by the local policeafter someone alerted them to the woman who was walking barefoot with someone else’s child on her back.

Once she arrives in Gibraltar she will travel with her partner to Kenya and buy the shoes, water filters and food for the children who need it so desperately and who live in such poor homes. The people of Torrevieja wish her good luck.

Suzanne O’Connell