Recent medical studies have confirmed that a brisk daily walk can do wonders for your health, including lowering your blood pressure, helping you maintain a healthy weight and improving your mood.
Some walks, though, can do wonders not just for your personal health, but for the world. A prime example of this is the Aga Khan Foundation’s World Partnership Walk, which takes place in Vancouver and eight other Canadian cities on May 30.
The walk began, like every journey, with a single step — a step in this case taken by a group of volunteers with Vancouver’s Ismaili Women’s Organizing Committee in 1985. The women sought to improve the conditions in impoverished countries in which they had grown up, and with the simple words “rain or shine, walk with your family, bring your lunch,” they persuaded 1,000 people to walk for the fight against global poverty.
That first walk raised an impressive $55,000. And in the 26 years since its inception, the walk has become a national event — the largest and most successful event of its kind in Canada, raising more than $50 million in support of international development initiatives.
This is certainly good news for people in developing countries in Asia and Africa, since the foundation now funds more than 30 development initiatives in a dozen countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Egypt, Mozambique, Mali and Uganda.
And instead of simply throwing money at people in developing countries, the foundation’s programs are designed to foster self-sufficiency in four areas: health, education, rural development and strengthening community-based organizations.
The programs tap the initiative, entrepreneurship, resources and energy of poor communities, with special attention paid to the impact on the environment and the status of women.
The foundation is therefore sensitive to the effectiveness of its programs, and all projects are evaluated by external agencies.
Furthermore, 100 per cent of proceeds raised during the walk go directly toward the development initiatives — in other words, no funds from the walk are used to pay for administrative costs. The funds also help the foundation to leverage additional support from major donors like the Canadian International Development Agency.
Fortunately for us, there are many ways to take part in this effort to help people throughout the world.
Volunteers can become walk ambassadors, and build awareness of the causes of global poverty and raise funds for the Aga Khan Foundation’s programs.
People can participate in the walk as a member of a team or as an individual. And those who are unable to walk can still participate by donating to a registered walker.
The 26th World Partnership Walk will take place at Lumbermen’s Arch, Stanley Park on May 30.