TWENTY Gippsland female hikers who have spent two years training and advocating for local at-risk women by raising awareness of the unique Go Girls Foundation program are about to put practice into action when they reach the iconic Wilsons Prom lighthouse on Friday, November 26.

Despite the challenges they have all faced during the last couple of years, including the hike being postponed last year, team leader and hike coordinator Jess Johnson says she is extremely proud of what they have all achieved together as an empowered group of women.

“We are on track to hit a fundraising target of $12,000, which means that we can sponsor four Gippsland women so that they can have access to the Go Girls Foundation Program.

“I’m very proud that as a group we have taken part in practice hikes, fundraising and organisational tasks together, forming a close bond and working towards a common goal that I am sure will mean we have become friends for life,” Jess said.

The Go Girls Hike team are also paying tribute to local woman and fellow hiker from South Gippsland, Fleur Stefani, who passed away after a short battle with brain cancer before she could go on the hike.

“We have hiker Bridget Wilson coming with us, who will hike in Fleur’s honour and we will assemble at the lighthouse together at sunset to celebrate Fleur’s contribution to our team with a heartfelt remembrance ceremony,” Jess said.

Jess says the group of 20 women hail from all across Gippsland, from Phillip Island and Leongatha to Walkerville, Sandy Point, Toora and Yanakie, but also from Trafalgar, Thorpdale and even as far as Sale.

“We are all dedicated and passionate about advocating for local women, and that passion has clearly come through for us now that we are about to embark on the hike and spend three days together. This hike has also been about creating a positive impact in our own lives, while connecting with like-minded people,” Jess said.

The Go Girls Foundation unique five-month program is run by fully qualified psychologists and facilitators. The women who take part receive employment skills development combined with specialised positive psychology approaches while empowering women to gain a stronger sense of self and take more control of their lives.

The women the program supports could be unemployed, have experienced domestic violence, are migrant women with language barriers, women who experience trauma or homelessness, or women who are recovering from cancer.

Many local and national businesses have come on board during this time to help sponsor the hike, and the ladies have been overwhelmed with the response and interest in the Go Girls Program and the hike.

“We would like to thank Burra Foods, who donated $2000 and to the staff of the local Bendigo Community Banks in South Gippsland and Bass Coast who have raised quite a lot through selling Go Girl tote bags on our behalf. It’s been so pleasing to see the interest from organisations in having local women access this special program,” Jess said.

Off the back of this interest, the Go Girls Foundation is intending to run its Work Ready Program in the South Gippsland region, and funding has been allocated by the foundation for this to commence in 2022.

“I’d say this is local leadership in action. By raising awareness, it’s highlighted the desperate need for our local women to have access to this program, and we are delighted to hear that the Go Girls Foundation will be coming to South Gippsland,” Jess said.

The Go Girls Foundation is also planning a further fundraiser for the program with a ‘Big Night Out’ at Meeniyan Hall on February 12, 2022.

The night will be headlined by comedian Dave O’Neill, followed by a DJ, and will be a chance for locals to find out more about the foundation while having a well-deserved night out. Tickets can be booked at trybooking.com/BVFUR.

Donations for the Go Girls Hike can be made at justgiving.com/team/gogirlshiketothelight, and more information about the Go Girls Program can be found at gogirls.org.au. You can follow updates about the hike on the team’s Facebook page titled ‘Go Girls Hike to the Light 2021’.