Canberra couple Shafeen Mustaq and Monty Feras have been training to walk 250 km for the Simpson Desert Challenge
The Simpson Desert Challenge (25 May to 4 June 2017) is an 11-day adventure that includes eight days of trekking in the completely isolated and harsh environment.
The physical and mental challenges are intended to reflect the daily lives of people the walkers will be fundraising for – young Australians with high care needs. The Brisbane-based charity Youngcare (www.youngcare.com.au) which organises the trek is seeking to fund age-appropriate housing for young people with high care needs who currently live in aged care facilities.
Why did Shafeen and Monty choose such an unconventional way of helping other people?
“We are an unconventional couple and unconventional ways appeal to us!” laughs Shafeen. “Really though, we love the great outdoors, we love travelling and we love challenging ourselves, so physical exertion appealed to us. I also romanticised the notion of a desert trek with comparisons to the Prophet’s travels through the desert and his nights at the cave thinking about life. To walk as a small fragile being in an infinite space and contemplate the universe in an attempt to get closer to God really appealed to me. And lastly, similarly to fasting, taking myself out of the normal comforts of life that I take for granted will help me empathise with those less fortunate and less abled – the recipients of the fundraising.”
Unfortunately, Shafeen has had to pull out only days before the trek, having sustained knee injuries during training. But Monty will continue; his training and experience from when he was in the Bangladesh Army will come in handy to brave the Australian desert.
Shafeen meanwhile, is continuing her fundraising activities. To make a tax deductable donation visit Monty’s Everyday Hero page: simpsondesertchallenge2017.everydayhero.com/au/monty
Monty will spend eight full days and nights in the desert, exposed to the elements, and climb more than 1000 sand dunes.
“Going to the bathroom in the desert will also be a challenge, and trying to avoid snakes and other creepy crawlies!” says Shafeen. “Despite it being winter, the temperature will get quite high during the day and then drop quite low during the night so that’s a challenge, staying hydrated, warm and cool depending on the time and place.”
23-year-old Shafeen has been highly community-minded since her teens, and has worked with several charities, most notably Probasy, a small NFP which raises funds for the poor and disadvantaged in Bangladesh. She also volunteered for FredHyde.org otherwise known as CO-ID Australia an Australian charity that builds and operates schools in the third world focusing specifically in poverty and natural disaster stricken areas of Bangladesh.
Currently she is a volunteer with a newly formed Canberra-based charity Sitara’s story which is aiming to raise $5,000 by year end to facilitate the delivery of mental health awareness and training to teenage girls in rural schools in Bangladesh by certified psychiatrists. In addition to this, Shafeen contributes regularly to Indian Link, and also manages a YouTube channel called “Muslim women can” where she researches and presents short videos of revered and renowned Muslim women.