Last month, Year 11 student Mahlah Donnelly, after six months of training and preparation, headed off to walk the Kokoda Trail.

Mahlah was one of only ten Year 11 students selected from the Geelong region, as part of the Geelong Kokoda Youth Program. This is the first year a student from Clonard has been selected to attend and Mahlah was committed to the program from day one.

Below is a reflection of her experience:

Wet, soggy, white, wrinkled feet that look like I have spent all night in a bath. Dry, crusty, oily hair that hasn’t seen shampoo for eight days. Aching, hunched shoulders that carry the weight of a 14kg backpack. Breathless, teary, sweating, heart racing, sun scorched… these are some of the feelings I experienced while on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea during the holidays. This started with months of training as I learnt about the history of the Kokoda track while preparing my mind and body for this gruelling 140km walk. It wasn’t about the distance but about the crazy ascents and descents, the unrelenting, burning sun, the rocky, narrow track and the spirit of friendship as I travelled with 21 people, some teenagers and some adult mentors.

The Geelong Kokoda Youth Program is led by people who want to support young people in their life. They provide an opportunity for teenagers to increase their confidence, build resilience, create engagement with others and strongly increase their self-belief. Long life relationships are created that will last forever with my Kokoda family. This experience has helped me find inner strength and extend my appreciation and gratitude for the things I have in my life. There were many stories to tell…that will stay on this trip!