For Marian Campbell, walking the length of New Zealand is a way of both inspiring young people to find a pathway in life, and paying homage to the people who have inspired her.
As a staunch supporter of the Graeme Dingle Foundation’s aims to help build self esteem in youngsters, and also as a leader for the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, she believes that taking on the challenge of walking the entire Te Araroa trail will send a message to youth and inspire others to expand their minds by discovering New Zealand’s unique outdoors.
She is also paying respects to people who inspired her by walking the trail before, such as Sir Graeme Dingle himself and Bruce Hopkins, who walked the trail to take his father and brother’s ashes back home to Stewart Island.
And there is one special, if chilling, memory which gives her the strength to take on the challenge of the continuous 3,000km walking track from Cape Reinga to Bluff…
“My father survived a Death March towards the end of World War II, after a gruelling 100-day march across Poland in the winter, starving and freezing cold. His story inspired me to test my fortitude to walk the length of New Zealand,” she says.
Marian believes the will to live shown by her father is mirrored in her wish to see young people live their lives to the full.
Based in Waipukurau, she is a registered teacher and was once a trustee in the Graeme Dingle Foundation’s Hawkes Bay region before taking over the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme at Lindisfarne College in Hastings. She has often taken young people into the wilderness to broaden their minds. In one year, she spent 21 weekends out of 52 in the mountains, leading groups of youngsters.
“When I am out in the wilderness with young people, I reach a state of excitement and the problems of everyday life just drop away. I live in the moment and enjoy the amazing bush, rivers and countryside that New Zealand has to offer,” she says.
“I exist happily with what is on my back — without the house, kitchen or garden that I take for granted at home.”
Young people who take on that challenge also learn the joy of freedom, the thrill of succeeding and the self-belief that comes from success and bonding with others in a cooperative spirit.
“In the wilderness, you must ask yourself ‘why? – why am I taking on this challenge?’ It makes people think and examine their lives. It makes young people examine who they are and realise that can be a better future ahead.”
This approach aligns with that of the Graeme Dingle Foundation, for whom Marian was a mentor and mentor-trainer for Project K – a positive youth development programme that targets Year 10 students (13 – 15-year olds) with untapped potential and low self-esteem, with the goal of improving their psychological, social and physical wellbeing.
The 14-month programme builds self-confidence, promotes health and education skills and helps students to set and achieve goals with the support of trained adult mentors. In some cases, the programme has saved lives.
Marian says the foundation inspires youth in New Zealand to improve their lives by setting goals and aspirations for their futures.
“It takes young people on journeys that are life-changing. Dedicated people work in our communities helping our future generation in its programmes. The Graeme Dingle Foundation brings about a better life for anyone who comes into contact with them.”
Marian will set off from Cape Reinga on September 29 with her friend Kay Garland, who “met” her on Facebook after being inspired by Marian’s willingness to take on the walking challenge.
During the walk, Marian is inviting others to come and support them by walking alongside them on stages of the walk. She is also offering to call into schools on the way and speak in classrooms about her walk and the work of the Graeme Dingle Foundation.
Donations to support her challenge can be given via https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/join-me-in-my-te-araroa-journey
Invitations to speak at schools can be extended via email to email@example.com