Stephen Hnilca walked through Laguna Beach on Wednesday, May 28, nearly a year since his journey began from New Port Richey, Fla., to raise money for charity.
Since departing on May 25, 2013, he has covered 3,000 miles en route to his Seattle, Wash., destination and hopes to raise $100,000 along the way.
Hnilca’s walk is to support the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, which operates more than 53,000 free, non-governmental schools in India. Hnilca’s funding goal will educate 10,000 children, he said in an interview Wednesday.
During his journey, Hnilca’s encounters have included exposure to poisonous gas and hiking 10 miles in a 3,000-foot mountain ascent against 30 to 40 mph headwinds. Hnilca carries a supply pack a bit taller than himself.
Even so, he remains upbeat and more interested in describing Ekal schools over any troubles he had endured.
After deciding to walk across America, Hnilca was alerted to Ekal schools by a friend after researching various charities.
Ekal schools are established in rural, impoverished villages far from government-run schools, Hnilca said. Ekal schools tap the most educated person in the village to become the teacher and provides instructional materials. Such an approach “doesn’t trample culture,” Hnilca said. After five years, locals are able to pay for the school by themselves, he said.
Hnilca’s local host, resident Stan Frymann, discovered the quest at couchsurfing.org. Hnilca’s cause resonated with Frymann, as he is also involved with educational charities and recently traveled to Cambodia to see progress on a school his family funded. “The dollar a day encapsulates the efficiency of it,” Frymann said, referring to the charity’s ability to fund an entire school on only a dollar a day. He was impressed by the highly motivated children and teachers, demonstrated by how the teachers are “semi-volunteer.”
Hnilca hopes to get to Seattle in September and travel shortly thereafter to visit the schools in India.
For more information on Hnilca’s journey and to make donations, visit Stephensadventure.com.
Kellie Hall is the Indy’s summer intern.