Jean Beliveau: This globe-trotter walks for peace

This globe-trotter walks for peace
By DEDETTE SISON-SANTIAGO
March 28, 2009, 10:59am
Manila Bulletin

Jean Beliveau was having a mid-life crisis at 45 and was at a crossroad, not knowing what to make of his life when the thought of doing something beyond his imagination challenged him- “walk and go around the world,” was the nagging thought.

“ It was a crazy idea, but I knew I could do it.’ His wife, who supported Jean’s decision, urged him to take it a notch higher and asked him to do it for a cause. “Do it for world peace,” was her voice of inspiration. Jean decided to follow this advice. He gave up his neon sign business and with only $3,000 in his pocket, set out to conquer the world by walking for world peace, for the benefit of children around the world.

He has since completed eight years of walking starting off from his native land Montreal, Canada in year 2000. He has traversed 55 countries including Istanbul, India, Chile and Japan and the continents of North and South America, Middle East and Europe. He has crossed five mountains, endured the scorching heat of the sun and survived the cold of some countries. His goal: to complete his 75, 000 kilometer- walk in 66 countries by 2011.

‘I’ve worn 40 pairs of shoes through those years of walking, “shares this lanky father of two who calls himself “a crazy walker.” Most of the shoes were gifts from supporters who were simply inspired by his endeavor. Right from the beginning, Jean was fortunate enough to receive support from people he met along the way. “Sometimes they walk with me,” he shares. At other times, Jean’s supporters gave donations in cash or kind. When he was in America he received money and food; in India, he received eyeglasses and a company in Chile (where he was almost attacked by a puma in the wilds) generously put in a thousand dollars for his needs. Duplicating this generosity were people in a hospital in Algeria where Jean had his prostrate surgery gratis.

Jean brings with him very little when he walks. He travels alone with a three-wheeled buggy or stroller that carries his food, clothing, a First-Aid kit, a small tent and a sleeping bag. He walks for about eight hours covering 35 kilometers a day. He sleeps in his tent or when invited, in someone else’s home. He has even experienced sleeping in a jail and under the bridges.

From his Taiwan sojourn where he met a Frenchman who introduced him to Virlanie Foundation , Inc, Jean came to the Philippines. and began his 20-day walk from Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte moving along the coast to Manila. His next stop would be Cebu and possibly Cagayan de Oro, afterwhich he plans to go to Cambodia or Vietnam.

Virlanie Foaundation, Inc., founded by Dominiwue Lemay, is the largest private, non-sectarian child-caring institution in Metro Manila championing the cause of neglected and abused children. Currently, the foundation has 12 homes that provide for the clothing, food, education and love to children needing special care and protection.

Last March 15, Virlanie and Jean Beliveau participated in a symbolic Walk for Peace for Children from Luneta to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) grounds. The walk supports the United Nations’ proclamation 2001-2010 as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World.

Virlanie ambassador and spokesperson Billy Crawford shares his mind: “It is a great pleasure to be acknowledged as an ambassador especially if it is for a very worthy cause,” he says during a presscon held last week.. “Virlanie only asked for my time, to talk and listen to the children. For me, sharing my time this way is such a blessing.”

Jean smiles listening to Billy and adds: “This is a great opportunity to help people, to let them know the importance of preserving peace. “

The path that Jean has taken is anything but typical and ordinary. It is the longest journey of his life. But nevertheless, he is happy and fulfilled following his decision. His search for his true self and of a more positive view of love led him to discover something more than he could have hoped for — to promote peace by simply passing by.