Jessica Halliday is prepared to take on a challenge like nothing she has ever faced before in her life because she wants to help people in need.
The well-known former Ulladulla resident, in August this year, will take part in the Trek for Refugees on a seven-day hike of the iconic Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory.
The trek aims to raise funds and walk in solidarity with the over 82.4 million refugees and displaced people globally.
It's a cause close to her heart.
"Refugees are among some of the most beautiful, kindest, and resilient people I have ever met," she said.
"They have dreams and hopes just like you and me, and all they seek is safety and security for themselves and their families.
" All that separates us is the country we were born. I know how lucky I am for that, and that's why I feel a sense of responsibility and importance in giving back to refugees."
The former Ulladulla High School student came to know more about refugees almost five years ago when she began working in an Adult English Migrant Program providing free childcare to Migrants and Refugees learning English.
"When I started, I had very little knowledge of what a refugee was, and the knowledge I did have was probably very biased. It took being exposed to stories and experiences so vastly different to my own, particularly that of Refugees, to make a genuine and stirring impact," she said.
"The impact of my work and the learning journey I have been on with refugees has been so profound that it has completely changed who I am and made me a better, more kind, and more humane person."
There is a fundraiser element to the walk and Jessica hope all her friend and family in the Ulladulla area will support her.
"All tax-deductible donations will go to Act to Peace to support initiatives that reduce displacement and create safety, dignity and belonging for displaced people, she said.
"This support ensures that people who have been affected by disaster and conflict take leadership over their lives and find a safe and permanent place to belong."
She gives examples of how the money is used are:
Go here to make a donation.
Jessica, closer to home, worked for three local businesses as well as contributed to many community organisations such as The Entertainers, The Milton Follies and petitioned to save the Ulladulla Sea pool.
She now lives in Sydney.
Jessica first became aware of the charity/cause and International Humanitarian Agency Act for Peace in 2018 when the staff at a service she managed participated in the Ration Challenge by Act for Peace.
"For one week, participants eat just a small amount of rations (usually rice, beans, and sardines) to replicate the same food a person living in a refugee camp receives," she said.
"Being quite intrigued by the concept, I decided to sign up for myself the following year. "Initially, I wasn't sure if I would be able to see out the challenge."
However, not long after registering, I received a call from one of the staff from the organisation saying a huge congratulations and thank you for signing up. Her sincerity, gratitude and warmth provided me with a wave of reassurance.
"Since then, I have always felt an overwhelming amount of support and kindness from the staff, other supporters and Act for Peace as a whole.
"The team is incredibly dedicated and passionate about what they do and they engage with their supporters to a level I haven't experienced from any other groups or charities.
"Being a supporter of Act for Peace has given me to a community of like-minded people."
She has a few nerves and slight fear over this upcoming challenge.
"While scenically spectacular, the journey through the Larapinta will undoubtedly be a physically and emotionally demanding one, with over 50km being trekked in just five days," she said.
"This trek includes long days of walking, sometimes on steep, uneven terrain and is well known for being challenging."
Jessica will be taken out of her comfort zone.
"I have never done a trek or even a hike, for that matter, so it is all a completely new experience for me," she said.
" It probably sounds crazy for a person with no experience but with the increasing situation in Ukraine and refugee and displacement numbers rising globally in the last few years, I feel it is the right time to push myself again and step out of my comfort zone.
"It is also the first-ever time Act for Peace and Soulful Concepts has held the Trek for Refugees, so I knew I would regret saying no to the opportunity."
Jessica also needs to physically prepare for the trek.
"It's only been a few weeks since I officially registered for the trek, but since then, I have been squeezing in an hour and a half walk before work, rain, hail or shine, with workouts and stretching in the evening," she said.
"Then, on weekends three to four hours plus of walking."
She aims to increase my backpack weight and train on more hills and uneven terrain in the coming weeks.
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