Solis and a group from Open Arms on Wilderness Beach. Photo courtesy of www.alongwalk.org
Rotarian Bob Solis walked 700 miles from the Open Arms orphanage near East London, South Africa, to Cape Town in 30 days.
Solis, who is a member of the Rotary Club of Sun City, Arizona, USA, organized A Long Walk for Children to raise $280,000 to accommodate 50 more children at the Open Arms orphanage in eastern South Africa.
"When you're walking up hill number 97 and the wind's in your face and it's raining hard, you just think, 'Hopefully, someone will get a home out of this effort,'" says Solis.
Solis came up with the idea for the walk as a way to capture people's imaginations and expand the donor base for the South African orphanage he and his wife opened with their life savings in March 2006.
"Every week, we get calls to take in more children," says Solis. "Those are the hardest phone calls to get."
Solis presented his idea for the walk to the Rotary Club of East London Sunrise, which jumped at the chance to help. Club members arranged all of Solis's accommodations during his journey and publicized his walk country-wide. Some of them even walked the first couple of miles with Solis as he began his journey.
"Bob radiates good fellowship, and he genuinely believes in the value of human life," says Wally Schroeder, president of the East London Sunrise club.
Nineteen Rotarian families opened their homes to Solis during the walk.
"One thing about Rotary that is absolutely amazing is that you tell people you're a Rotarian, and you're immediately accepted as a friend," says Solis.
Solis ended his walk with a visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for many years. He bused the children and workers from Open Arms to Cape Town to join him in paying tribute to Mandela and to celebrate the success of the walk.