Nothing has ever stopped Val Monk from achieving what she sets her mind to.
As a child, she had three open-heart surgeries. But that didn’t stop her from running around in the coast of Gibraltar and playing with all the other kids that lived by her. Nor did it stop her from going to school.
When she became an adult, she had yet another open-heart surgery. Despite this she has run two half-marathons, climbed Mt. Kota Kinabalu, and backpacked all over Southeast Asia and Australia. Now she is cycling 1000 miles to raise money for children with congenital heart disease “because she can.”
However, this is not the case for many around the world, especially children who are living in developing countries. Many find themselves too weak to have normal childhood: running around playing tag, climbing trees, swimming, riding bicycles, or the other things that little kids always do. And then there are some that can not even go to school. Children with chronic diseases miss out on life, miss out on a normal childhood.
Because of Val’s past challenges, she has developed a burning passion to help others. So she has decided to bike 1000 miles to work, testing her endurance and commitment. Why is she doing this? “Because I can,” while others can’t.
An interview with Val
So Val, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have lived in the UK most of my life, as an adult based around west London. My family live in Shrewsbury in Shropshire now, where I lived as a teenager, it is a superbly friendly town and I love it, I go “home” whenever I can. As a child I grew up in Gibraltar, in the sunshine and sea, never watching TV and always just a little bit sandy.
I have been lucky enough to travel to some great countries. I quit my job on the day I got a pay rise when I was 24, realizing that I was beginning to define myself by my role at work! I booked a round the world ticket but ended up spending 3 months in East Malaysia, a short time in Thailand and a wonderful month in Vietnam. In Vietnam I stayed in a remote village in the north of the country and spent time chatting with a few mothers. They noticed my scar and asked what had happened, when I explained they could not believe that I had survived hospital once, let alone four open heart surgeries.
I then bought a van in Australia and spend 6 months avoiding tourists and having a great deal of fun in the process. Since then I’ve traveled to India for work, visiting an orphanage for children with HIV and tuberculosis, which made me realize how difficult access to medicine is for some. Throwing a party for those children was the most rewarding £40 I ever spent!
How did you hear about Heartbeat Vietnam?
It took me a while to find the charity. I knew that I wanted to try to help people in developing countries to get access to the life saving medicine that I have benefited from. I was really interested in aligning my event with my experience so I concentrated my search on cardiac care in India and Vietnam. I tweeted to the British Medical Association, searched the web and tried to get in touch with a UK junior doctor association that I thought may know something. In the end I searched on twitter and found someone who had recently tweeted about the Heartbeat Vietnam – and hey presto, an email later we were off!
How did you come up with the idea with biking to help raise money?
I realized that to get sponsored you need to do something out of the ordinary and achievable, which is a difficult balance! I am basically fit and well, a walking miracle, but can’t do altitude, I don’t do endurance well and I’ve done two half marathons so another one of those would be cheating! I realized that I needed to get a striking headline and work it into my routine in a way that would test my endurance and commitment. It had to sound like a challenge to people without my medical history, so when they learned about it they it would push them from “oh, wow” to “I’ll just get my credit card”!