Build a village? We’ll walk it in

DANIEL Kuzeff fought back tears as his dream of putting a roof over the head of 40 less fortunate families in the Philippines was realised in Albury’s Queen Elizabeth II Square on Saturday.

The Bended Elbow barman and university student was in awe of the community backing for his project.

A week-long walk from Melbourne to Albury has capped a $160,000-plus fund-raising effort.

More than 10 people took part in the walk, some completing the seven daily legs in relay.

Three men, Albury councillor Daryl Betteridge, McRae Motors director Mick Blomeley and Rotarian David Carroll completed the entire 300-kilometre plus journey.

The exhausted trio compared blisters and stories after reaching the square.

Cr Betteridge walked part of the journey in sandals, his feet ached so much. Mr Carroll defied doctors orders to keep going.

But Mr Blomeley was amazed at the determination of the 22-year-old organiser Daniel Kuzeff.

“He has changed the lives of 40 families forever,” Mr Blomeley said.

“It is pretty inspiring stuff when you think about it.”

Mr Kuzeff set the project rolling when he told his Bended Elbow boss Gavin Grant he would work for free with his wages donated to the cause.

Mr Grant was so impressed, he agreed to match Daniel dollar for dollar for the hours he worked.

Mr Blomeley then jumped in, with money and support vehicles, enhancing offers from Border Rotary clubs and the ANZ Bank.

“I just thought if we can get this kid over the line with his big dream it may inspire others to do like things,” Mr Blomeley said.

“We had a target of $70,000 for the walk and we think we will exceed that.”

Mr Kuzeff will travel to Philippines early next year to check on progress of the village.

Any extra money from the walk will buy fishing boats so the villagers can generate income.

“Sixteen months of emotions are running now and I feel like I am going to shed a tear,” Mr Kuzeff said. “We’ve had amazing support.

“We had some more support come on board today which I didn’t know about.

“It is more relief than anything else.

“I did it for the people who I kept thinking about as I walked down Dean Street today.

“The emotions of this day will live with me for a long time.”

The walkers completed the final leg from Chiltern to Albury on Saturday with Mr Kuzeff thankful of all those who took part, in particular Mr Carroll.

“After the second day, he was in hospital,” he said.

“The doctors said ‘don’t walk’, but he was determined to keep going.

“He started two hours earlier than everybody else and he did every single step.”

Blisters were de rigueur when Mick Blomeley, Daryl Betteridge and Gavin Grant reached Albury. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

Blisters were de rigueur when Mick Blomeley, Daryl Betteridge and Gavin Grant reached Albury. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN