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June 2002

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WINDOW ON CANADA

Fighting global poverty with the walk

GlobalomNet Media Service

The Walk is “a meaningful way to bring everyone together in partnership with those living in poverty,” said Deputy Prime Minister John Manley as he kicked off the walk in Ottawa. “Canadians are increasingly becoming aware of the need to take action to end the despair caused by global poverty."

The 18th annual WORLD PARTNERSHIP WALK, on May 26, held simultaneously in Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Kitchener, London, Ont., Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, raised an estimated $2.6 million, 25 per cent more funds than last year.

 

Earlier this year, on February 19th, the Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s Corporate Breakfast was held to launch this year's Walk.

 

The Walk, the largest events of its kind in Canada, brought together tens of thousands of people from all walks of life in support of international development and to fight global poverty.

 

The Walk is “a meaningful way to bring everyone together in partnership with those living in poverty,” said Deputy Prime Minister John Manley as he kicked off the walk in Ottawa. “Canadians are increasingly becoming aware of the need to take action to end the despair caused by global poverty.”

 

Thousands of volunteers and about 800 corporate sponsors, including The Globe and Mail and CTV, supported this year's event. “Canadians are looking for what they can do to make a difference, and we're responding to that,” Globe publisher Phillip Crawley said in a statement.

 

The walk was developed in 1985 as Walk for a Cause in Vancouver and drew 300 participants, raising $30,000.

 

This year Vancouver raised $500,000, and 5,000 people participated. The local convener, Mr. Damji said the events of Sept. 11 and the crisis in the Middle East have made people more globally aware and have filled them with a desire to do something for those in developing countries.

 

There was a three-hour cultural variety show that included everything from hip-hop to ballet to cap the walk in Vancouver.

 

In Toronto, about 7,000 people walked the course -- double last year's number -- and raised about $1-million.

 

In Edmonton, under sunny skies and temperatures that rose to 20, an estimated 3,000 people -- a 50-per-cent increase over last year -- followed the route from the Alberta Legislature through the river valley.

 

Narmin Hassam, an Edmonton organizer, said one of the most remarkable aspects of the event was about 400 Girl Guides, many of whom completed the walk balancing steel buckets and water-filled urns on their heads or with log bundles strapped to their backs.

“It was part of their sense of awareness to do this and experience what women in developing countries experience,” said Ms. Hassam, who estimated they had raised more than $250,000.

 

In Winnipeg, where 450 people walked from the Manitoba Legislature along the Red River, the event blossomed into a multicultural party. Led by a marching band from Yorkton, Sask., the parade of walkers was treated at the end of the five-kilometre trail to Indian, African and Ukrainian dances.

 

The Aga Khan Foundation Canada sponsors programs such as these, and because 100 per cent of the money goes toward international-development projects, including biogas stoves, the foundation is "actively making [people's] lives a bit better," said Mr. Mamdani.

 

Karim Mamdani remembers well the smiling face of a woman he met cooking food on her new chula in a village in India.

 

"I wondered how come she had a big smile on her face. She just got her appliance," said Mr. Mamdani, the Toronto-area convener for this Sunday's annual World Partnership Walk, organized to raise money for the Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

 

The chula was a stove run on biogas. It converts cow dung into methane, freeing women in the village from chopping wood and allowing them to participate in other activities.

 

Nazeer Aziz Ladhani, AKFC's Chief Executive Officer, said that “The unparalleled support shown for the Walk across the country - both from individuals and corporations - is an indication of the bond Canadians feel with people in the developing world.”

 

John Bouza, spokesman for the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, said the foundation is increasingly receiving expressions of interest from Canadians who want to feel a part of the global village. “The world is our back yard. Canadians are very global; they travel a lot; they see this stuff, and they want to do something,” Mr. Bouza said.