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In search of heroes, a girl travels around the world
NIHA MASIH  10th Jul 2011

Craig Sieben with Chaeli Mycroft (front), her mother Zelda (right), Sonja Kruse, the Ubuntu Girl (left) and Tithiya Sharma. In September 2011, Sieben will be on a mission to change the lives of one disabled child for every day of travel

ometimes all it takes is a conversation to change your life. Nobody knows this better than Tithiya Sharma. A year ago she was ranting about her unsatisfying media job when her best friend chided her, saying, "If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll only get what you've always gotten. Start with what you most love and then do more of that."

And that's how her journey began. She calls it the 100 Heroes Project. A year later, it took us more than a week to track her down to a small village in Congo where there is very little access to the rest of the world. She writes, "The 100 Heroes Project is my quest for inspiration. I want to travel around the world and meet one hundred champions of the world, people who're changing the future of their countries, one small step at a time."

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The heroes she has found most inspiring are invariably women who have gone a long way in creating just and equitable societies

During this dream trip, she is not only living her life the way she wants to, but wants to help the heroes she meets by raising money or just creating awareness. "Using social media for social good, I hope to meet these 100 heroes who are doing their bit to change the world. A hundred thousand of us can pitch in to make their lives a little easier," she says.

Soraida Salwala, of FAE centre in Thailand

The initial money for the project came from her own savings, which she insists is thanks to her mother's nagging. Realising her passion, the rest of the family pooled in money for the project. Finally, trusting her instincts and with the support of friends and family, she set out. Within a few weeks got a call from MakeMyTrip, who offered to sponsor her air tickets for the rest of her journey. She has now on the second leg of her journey. In the first leg of her tour she identified 40 heroes in South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

While travelling is fun, she puts in a lot of work to locate the right kind of heroes through intensive online research. She says, "I try and find out the most pressing issues in the city or town I'm heading to and it eventually leads me to concerned locals who're trying to find a solution or offer assistance is any way." Sometimes, however, online material does not match with the ground reality and thus she has now come to rely a lot on the local people. "When I started the journey, I had a huge reservoir of people in each country. So often, when I arrive in a town, I am able to tap into people and projects that one would never find online," she adds.

Shanaka Fernando, founder of Lentil As Anything in Australia

From learning self-defense moves from a retired Irish military officer, to getting a haircut from a Kiwi grandmother, to finding an old couple who have been on the road for the last 45 years, Sharma has had some great experiences.

However, being a single girl on the road isn't always easy. She adds, "I've been robbed, attacked, deserted and duped a few times. In these moments, it is important to remember not to take it personally. Too often we internalise the ugly stuff and it turns us into cynical people."

The heroes she has found most inspiring are invariably women who have gone a long way in creating just and equitable societies in places where they can be persecuted for exhibiting even a modicum of freedom. She signs off happily, saying, "I travel with an open heart and mind and with the assumption that I'm not the most important person. I'm aware that I have much to learn from anyone I meet on the way. You have to let your journey change you, for the right reasons of course." 

 
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