The Salvation Army’s Adventure Fundraising Program is showing how travel can change lives.
Many of us dream about a holiday that provides us with new experiences while letting us encounter some of the most incredible parts of the world. When you throw in the opportunity to help those in need, The Salvation Army’s (TSA) Adventure Fundraising Program really does offer the adventure of a lifetime.
The program began in 2016 with a seven-day trip to conquer the famous Larapinta Track in Central Australia. Adventurers spent five days trekking sections of the Larapinta Track from the old Alice Springs Telegraph Station to the peak of Mount Sonder and along the backbone of the West MacDonnell Ranges.
Not only did they enjoy breathtaking scenery, they were given an opportunity to learn about the work of the broader Salvation Army, bonding as a group and sleeping under the stars. The Salvos’ development manager (special projects), Peter Cleave—who coordinates the treks—says that the initial goal was help build relationships with people supporting the Army’s work, as well as raising awareness of the services the Salvos provide.
“Our Adventure Fundraising Program is another way to steward our existing donors and to create relationships with people who have not previously been involved with TSA. It engages both individuals and corporates who become quite passionate about the work of the Salvos,” Peter told Warcry.
Since the inaugural trip, the program has grown in scope, with major yearly trips that have included destinations like the historic Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, and this year’s destination, the Great Wall of China. Peter has seen the impact the trips have had on participants.
“Part of the experience is achieving something significant together. For some this might be one of the most difficult things they have undertaken—certainly this was the case on Kokoda. For others it is stepping outside their comfort zone,” Peter says. “During the adventure participants experience significant personal growth, plus learn more about the work of The Salvation Army and get great satisfaction knowing the funds they raise will change the lives of others.”
The trips aren’t just a holiday, though. Each adventure has a fundraising goal that goes back into supporting Salvo programs. For example, trekkers on the Great Wall of China trip have a fundraising target of $3,750 and will use a variety of methods to fundraise. In the past this has included donations from friends and colleagues, cake stalls, trivia nights, self-donations, matching of funds raised by employers, and BBQs at their local hardware stores.
So far, the Great Wall trip has raised over $43,000 in donations. As trekkers cover their own costs, all of these donations go directly to supporting Salvo programs. Participants will also have the opportunity to make a difference at their destination.
“We visit local programs on our trips and make a financial contribution. In Papua New Guinea we made a donation to help with the restoration of a local hall that will be used for community programs and will also be hired out to others as an income source that will help fund programs that benefit the local community,” Peter says. “And in Sri Lanka we contributed funds to a TSA centre in Colombo for women and children, many of whom have experienced abuse.”
Part of the experience is achieving something significant together. For some this might be one of the most difficult things they have undertaken.
Peter says it is clear that these trips become more than just a holiday or a simple chance to get away for trekkers.
“I see the huge personal satisfaction they get from knowing they are helping to bring hope to someone in the community and I get to see first-hand the difference the funds raised make to both the local programs we visit and the lives on Australians back home,” he says. “The Salvos are often described as ‘Christianity with its sleeves rolled up’, and participants get to see this in action during our program visits and in the lead-up to our treks.”
The initiative has been so successful that it now includes events beyond the major yearly trips, and benefits people across the country.
“We have recently expanded our adventures to include the national Red Shield Ride. This is a 10-day bike ride from Sydney to Melbourne in April and May 2019. There are also a couple of three-day options for cyclists to ride from Sydney to Canberra, or Sale to Melbourne.”
When asked why he thinks Aussies have embraced this program, Peter is quick to point out the benefits it brings to everyone involved.
“There are a variety of reasons for people to join us on our adventures. These include the personal challenge of doing something difficult, helping to raise funds to change the lives of people in need. For some it gives a chance to tick off a bucket list item, and do it with family or friends,” Peter says. “And, on the Kokoda treks in 2017 and the upcoming 2019 trek, there is the historical aspect, and often a family connection to the track.”
According to Peter, the adventure doesn’t always end when participants return from their trip.
“Trekkers become strong advocates for the work of the Salvos,” he says. “Ongoing interactions include volunteering in our Drive For Life program, helping feed those experiencing homelessness, as well as workplace giving and volunteering.”
It’s clear that with the Adventure Fundraising Program, combining change for good with a holiday will continue to transform lives, both here and abroad.
You can join Peter on the September 2019 Kokoda Trek for Hope. Details are available at salvos.org.au/kokoda.
To find out about other adventures visit salvos.org.au/adventure.
Interview by Faye Michelson