David Grier is a chef by profession and humanitarian, extreme adventurer, bestselling author, and inspirational speaker. David also became the first person to have run the length of the Great Wall of China in both directions (4200 km in each direction) in 2006 and 2019 and since then has gone on to run six more arduous, breath-taking adventures, all in support of Operation Smile.
David told The Portugal News that: “1 in 750 children globally are born with a cleft and it is the biggest facial deformity no matter what country you are born in. The sad thing is that people think having a cleft is a cosmetic issue, however, 1 in 10 children born with this don’t reach their first birthday due to choking or suffocating as well as other issues. Then if you don’t get a child into surgery in their first year, there are the psychological issues that that child faces as they are ostracised and hidden away. In rural villages, these children are looked at as bewitched and are in danger so we are trying to assist to bring an end to that.”
David had only positive things to say about Portugal, warmly sharing that “This journey has been incredible, firstly, the Portuguese people are so friendly, it has been amazing, from old ladies giving us fruit and water, people offering to pay our bills when we buy something in a shop, restaurateurs discounting us on our meals and saying thank you for what you are doing.” When asked how they have been dealing with the heat, David humorously replied that “Us South Africans manage better in the heat than in the cold so it hasn’t been too bad.”
When asked about his running partner Andrew Stuart, David told The Portugal News “I have known Andy for 30 years and we were both in the hospitality industry, where I was the chef-owner of the restaurant and he was front of house manager. When I sold the restaurant and started my adventuring career 18 years ago, Andy went off and did his own thing but whilst I was running in India I needed someone to assist me as crew, so I phoned him up, he was working at the time and I said "come on mate" and join me which he did. Halfway through India, I got injured and it was over 4,000km and it was so lonely on the road with this injury so I said to Andy, get out of the vehicle and run with me and since then, this is our 9th adventure together. We ended up being really good adventuring partners and he has got an incredible sense of humour and he is younger and faster than me but he helps me through the day and I say that I get us to the beginning of the adventure and Andy gets us to the end of the adventure.”
David shared that “We have identified 400 children that are ready for surgery in Northern Mozambique, which is where we can do the surgery, with the connection between Mozambique and Portugal, there is a long history between them and businesses from Portugal that operate in Mozambique and it is a Portuguese speaking country. We thought we could come to Portugal and raise that awareness, maybe even connect with some Portuguese companies that can assist us in fulfilling these surgeries.”
He went on to explain “And then from our journeys to date, Andy and I, have raised enough funding where we have put over 3,000 children through surgery so far, through these adventures so it has been massive what we have achieved.”
David shared the challenges they have faced whereby, “It is actually the first time we have run with tents on our backs, usually we have people in the country who meet us along the way and do drops for us but for this adventure, we could not find funding so we are running with everything we have been using since starting the journey, except water and food so we are running with 12 kilos on our back, and doing nearly 50km a day so you can imagine the pain we are going through on our knees and the way our feet are striking the ground, I have had blisters and they have got infected but it is always that promise that we have made to the child, no matter what happens, we make a difference in your life and if we give up, we give up on that promise.”
Towards the end of the interview, David reflected on his personal journey and shared that “These journeys let me reach out and do something for someone else and that reaching out changes you. It is amazing how this all evolves and through every journey, I have learn't more about myself and I have become a better person in my opinion. It has been a hell of a personal journey.”
To donate in support of David and Andrew’s Portugal and Madeira run, visit https://www.givengain.com/ap/david-grier-raising-funds-for-cipla-foundation/. You can also follow their progress by visiting www.facebook.com/dmmgrier or following @milesforsmilesportugal on Instagram.
Following undertaking her university degree in English with American Literature in the UK, Cristina da Costa Brookes moved back to Portugal to pursue a career in Journalism, where she has worked at The Portugal News for 3 years. Cristina’s passion lies with Arts & Culture as well as sharing all important community-related news.