Hundreds gathered in Brussels’ Grand-Place on Sunday to cheer 28-year-old Cécile Desmeth as she completed a month-long fundraiser which saw her walk throughout Belgium pushing a heavily loaded wheelbarrow.
Desmeth set off on foot from her home in the Walloon town of Ohey, near Namur, on 1 August, pushing along a 50 kg wheelbarrow carrying her belongings.
The Brussels native, who is a member of the army, decided to embark on the challenge to raise funds for a Mistral Gagnant, an association for children with chronic illnesses or with disabilities which helps make their wishes a reality.
Speaking to photojournalist Igor Pliner Desmeth, Desmeth said the wheelbarrow was nothing compared to the load these children carry every day of their lives.
“It’s my own way of paying homage to these kids because, ultimately, what is a 600 km journey with a wheelbarrow compared to what these kids are going through?”
Desmeth said she was dumbfounded by the interest Belgians took in her journey, which saw her traverse some of the major cities of Belgium: Liège, Namur, Mons, Ostend, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp, with the Belgian capital marking the final stage of her adventure.
“I didn’t think it would blow up this much, but it was being followed by practically all of Belgium, it was huge,” she said, adding that she decided to embark on her trip following the isolation period brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The journey, she said, was like having “all of humanity thrust into my face — from day one,” an experience which she said she still struggled to put into words.
Desmeth was able to raise €15,000 for the organisation, with her exploit celebrated by a crowd of Brussels residents who, flanked by Fabian Maingain, Brussels city councillor for jobs and economic affairs, braved the rain to come see her arrive in the city square.
The Brussels Times
Photos by Igor Pliner