CONCERNS about the plight of women – and especially girls – in less developed countries has prompted Sorrento resident Bruce Grey to once again get out of his comfort zone and challenge his physical capabilities.
At 70 years old, the retired air force chaplain is leading a team in next month’s Tough Mudder Challenge – an event in which Mr Grey competed in each of the past two years when he was a spritely 68 and 69 years old.
The famed endurance event being held at Lardner Park in Gippsland 19-20 October is contested by teams which raise money for worthwhile causes. The daunting 16-19km obstacle course plays on the need to overcome common human fears – such as fire, water, electricity and heights. The first Tough Mudder was held in the US in 2010 and, since then, they have attracted millions of competitors.
The money Mr Grey’s team raises – he is aiming for $10,000 – will go to a cause dear to his heart: CARE. The international humanitarian aid organisation fights global poverty with a special focus on assisting poor and marginalised women and girls and to bring beneficial change to their communities.
Mr Grey’s fundraising efforts began during a discussion over a deeply moving book between himself and another officer at the RAAF Base at East Sale in 2015. Both had just read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which detailed the extraordinary stories of struggling women in Asia and Africa.
With a shared desire to raise awareness of their struggles and somehow organise an effort to help them, the men began the Half the Sky campaign named after an ancient Chinese proverb affirming that women “hold up half the sky”.
The officers’ campaign culminated in a day of physical challenges to determine the strongest, fastest and smartest members at the RAAF base while raising money for the cause. It turned in to a show of strength, endurance, intelligence and, most importantly, compassion.
“I did this three years running before it went out to the whole Air Force,” Mr Grey said.
Four years on, the now-retired chaplain’s passion for the cause still runs deep.
“Twenty thousand girls are married underage every day in the developing world,” he said. “One young female dies in childbirth every two minutes because they are just too young to have children. They are robbed of an education and a future and turned into baby-making machines unable to fulfil their dreams of a better life; their children are condemned to poverty.”
Mr Grey said more females died in the last half of the 20th Century than men died in all the wars over the past 100 years. “In many countries – unlike here in the West – there are fewer women than men,” he said. “This fact lies behind the asylum-seeker issue and much of the poverty and civil strife in their impoverished countries.”
Mr Grey believes improved treatment for women and girls is vital for world peace. “If my great, great-grandchildren are not preparing for war it will be because we started educating and empowering girls today,” he said.
He is proud of the work done by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. “Before they went over about a million children were going to school, yet now about six million are going to school and one third are girls.”
Educating girls and empowering women in the developing world is the major challenge facing the 21st Century, he says. “It is of similar importance as the campaign to end slavery in the 19th Century and Totalitarianism in the 20th Century,” he said.
“The girls need champions and I am happy to put my hand up.”
Anyone wanting to join Mr Grey’s Tough Mudder team can call him on 0444 561 723.