One man's trek to help end hunger: It was grand!

With a few blisters on both feet and two sore knees for his troubles, Dr. Paul Chan finished his autumn CROP Hunger Walk personally having raised over $31,000.

Paul Chan
Dr. Paul Chan, his wife, Katie Lorand, and their children, Maya and Jesse, at the October Kansas City, Mo., Heart of America CROP Hunger Walk. On October 26, Chan completed another CROP Hunger Walk: a solo 50-mile Grand Canyon trek—from rim to rim and back again in less than 24 hours—that raised more than $31,000 to fight hunger and poverty at home and abroad.
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• Read excerpts from Paul Chan’s Grand Canyon log
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With a few blisters on both feet and two sore knees for his troubles, Dr. Paul Chan finished his autumn CROP Hunger Walk personally having raised over $31,000.

The walk was a bit longer than most CROP Hunger Walks around the U.S. In fact, it was the Grand Canyon. Fifty miles, in one continuous trek, rim to rim, top to bottom to top, then back down and up again. Alone.

On October 26, at 3:00 AM, the Kansas City cardiologist and humanitarian started his 4,800-foot descent in darkness, at the top of the canyon’s South Rim, in 28-degree temperatures and winds of 10 to 20 miles per hour.

As Chan said in an interview in the Kansas City Star before his lone hike, "I just wanted to put my body on the line to try to raise awareness of hunger issues." He did that, as a follow-up story in the Star revealed.

Chan took on his solo Grand Canyon challenge much as he has taken on a great deal in his life: do what you’re called to do.

As a cardiologist at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, his dedication to improving the quality of human life cuts across and integrates the physical, psychic and socio-economic wellbeing of individuals and the world’s most vulnerable groups.

Chan was influenced in part by journalist and pioneering social activist Dorothy Day, who started the Catholic Worker movement in the U.S. and opened soup kitchens to feed the hungry.

In addition to pursuing his medical degree, early on Chan began working with humanitarian causes in the U.S. and abroad, including work with the Christian Appalachian Project and Bread for the World. Later, Chan worked with children in Nicaragua and Guatemala traumatized by conflicts and massacres and participated in a small human rights delegation of Jews and non-Jews to the Middle East in 1990 during the first intifada. He has been involved in health and development projects in rural Guatemala through the Behrhorst Partners for Development, where he has served as both president and treasurer of its board of directors. In Peru, with Partners in Health, he treated people with multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis.

After completing his general medicine training, Chan and his wife Katie Lorand went on to work on a Navajo reservation for four years – where they first saw the Grand Canyon. From there, he returned for subspecialty training to become a cardiologist and a biostatistician. "I’m now working to integrate the academic training which I have been so blessed to receive with my human experiences to foster social justice in the medical field," he said.

"As I was deciding what to do with my life," he said, "I began to think about how to bring the science of academic medicine to address structural causes of poverty and hunger." Alongside his work in cardiology and research, which have focused on addressing disparities in care and improving quality of care, Chan says, "My passion is in development work."

The ongoing burning question for Chan is, "How do you start making a difference in real people’s lives that translates into change?"

Raising funds and awareness by engaging circles of people is one step in growing the potential for change.

To combat hunger and the causes of hunger in his local community and for some of the world’s most vulnerable, Chan gained pledges for his Grand Canyon CROP Hunger Walk from his circles of friends, family and colleagues, backed by his own pledge to match contributions up to $5,000.

Chan first heard about CROP Hunger Walks from his mother-in-law Cil Lorand of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, who helps organize CROP Hunger Walks in her community and his father-in-law John Lorand, treasurer for the Mt. Pleasant walks.

To set the spirit for his solo Grand Canyon challenge, on October 10, Chan joined some 2,000 people for the Heart of America CROP Hunger Walk in Kansas City.

‘All of you, as the wind to my back’

Keeping in touch with his supporters throughout his canyon challenge, a week before the hike Chan wrote, "The process of thinking through the preparations, logistics and timing of the hike has been a humbling process, but I feel rejuvenated knowing that I will have all of you, as the wind behind my back. I will need it," he said, "especially during the last 10 miles when I ascend out of the canyon one last time in the dark."

To those who wonder if donating money to hunger and social and economic development programs really helps, he says, "If we did what we do in order to see change quickly, then people would stop giving because change requires patience. We should give to others because the process of true giving transforms us. The process is as important as the outcome. Being engaged in others’ lives is a humble recognition that we don’t have all the answers (and we shouldn’t). True giving is a collaborative process, an engagement, without the hierarchy of the giver and the givee."

Liberation in giving it away

Chan says that the act of "doing" is transformative and liberating. Giving to others "liberates us from the constraints in our lives," which, he notes, includes our possessions. "Imagine a world where our first thought is not about whether I have enough money, but about the other person in need."

With high visibility events like Grand Canyon charity treks, Chan says, "In these hikes where we sensationalize a bit to encourage people to give, it can create communities of people who care." He said he’d noticed that in the online version of the Kansas City Star article about his impending canyon journey, "Lots of people added comments about what they feel about giving." In fact, he said he collected an additional $6,000 as a result of the article.

Added to his faith and dedication to relieve human suffering, sustainably, at all levels, Chan is also punctual: He’d told his supporters that he estimated finishing the canyon in 22 hours. Despite extreme knee pain, he ended the trek in 21 hours and 58 minutes.


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