Weekend Walkers Help End Poverty And Feed The Hungry

Bala Sathya Sai Baba

Weekend Walkers Help End Poverty And Feed The Hungry

Roger Collier, The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Monday, June 02, 2008
Despite a cool wind and light rain, there was a whole lot of walking going on yesterday in Ottawa.

One group supported the fight against global poverty, another walked to combat world hunger. A third group laid sneaker to asphalt for the ambiguously titled “Walk for Values.”

The Choir of Joan of Arc Academy, comprising pint-sized singers in blue-and-green plaid, opened the World Partnership Walk in Confederation Park at 11 a.m. with the national anthem. Between 600 and 800 people participated in the walk, run by the non-profit development agency Aga Khan Foundation Canada to raise money to improve the lives of the poor in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

It’s a great cause,” said first-time participant Emma Blakely, who completed the five-kilometre loop along the Rideau Canal with her cocker spaniel, Rita.

Environment Minister John Baird delivered a message from the prime minister, and Ottawa Councillor Rick Chiarelli extended a greeting on behalf of Mayor Larry O’Brien, who was attending a conference in Quebec City. Guest of honour Huguette Labelle, chancellor of the University of Ottawa, also took to the stage to encourage the walkers.

“World poverty is an epidemic and, like any epidemic, it can be dealt with if there is a will to do so,” she told the crowd.

Before the noon start, an organizer announced the fundraising goal of $200,000 for the Ottawa event had been met. The Aga Khan Foundation also runs walks in eight other cities, from Montreal to Victoria.

In its 24-year history, the World Partnership Walk has raised some $40 million, which has gone toward improving health care and education, and increasing rural incomes, in the developing world.

“Ending poverty is fundamental to creating world peace,” said event convener Aly Alibhai. “It’s poverty that has led to so much of the strife in the world today.”

At Dow’s Lake, about 30 people took part in a 10 a.m. walk to support the “End Hunger: Walk the World” campaign, which provides funding to the United Nations World Food Program. Organizers of the global 24-hour event set a lofty goal: to raise enough money to provide meals for 59-million school children in impoverished nations.

“We hope about 40 people will show up, and maybe some people will see the banner,” said organizer Stéphane Forget, referring to a “Fight Hunger” banner he hung between posts in a parking lot facing Dow’s Lake Pavilion 15 minutes before the walk began.

Mr. Forget said money would be raised through donations for baseball caps and balloons.

Also at 10 a.m., a few dozen members of the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Ottawa-Carleton began a walk from Parliament Hill to City Hall carrying signs containing words like “love,” “truth” and “non-violence.”

Participants, dressed in yellow T-shirts, sang and rang small cymbals. According to a flyer on the centre’s website, participants were not expected to raise money but were expected to “make the community richer by pledging to practice a value of his or her choice.”


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