Jul 18 2007
By Tiffany Williams
When youth are inspired they can do anything and they will change the world. That is exactly what 15 students from Ponoka Composite High School did. They were inspired by students from Grant MacEwan College who walked from Calgary to Edmonton to raise awareness on the situation in Darfur. The group might seem small but Rishi Jaipaul who organized the event knows that size doesn't matter in their plight to raise money and awareness.
"It will make a difference, even the smallest thing, even if it saves one person's life it still made a difference," said Jaipaul.
The students from PCHS raise $4,876 for Doctors without Boarders. They raised the money through donations, selling t-shirts, the walkers took pledges and they held an event at their school and shaved students heads. He says that the money is going to Doctors without Boarders because they are one of the few humanitarian organizations who are still there. The other groups had to pull out because of rebel attacks.
Many of the walkers endured blisters, sprains, bruises or other hardships, but Jaipaul stresses that it was all worth it.
"The physical pain was hard, but when I was cramping up, I would think about the people in Darfur who would have to walk for 10 days to get to refugee camps after their villages were burnt."
The students set off from Ponoka on July 11 at 7:30 a.m. and started walking. They arrived in Lacombe at 2:30 p.m. and were taken in to rest at a church. They left the next day at 8:30 a.m. and arrived in Red Deer at 2:30 p.m. At 6:30 p.m. that night there was a reception held for their efforts. At the reception MP Bob Mills spoke of his humanitarian efforts in other war torn countries, members from the Central Alberta Refugee Effort spoke and a child solider that walked from Darfur to Ethiopia.
"The best part was seeing people's reactions, when telling them that I was walking from Ponoka to Red Deer. Also explaining the situation to people, where it is, the conflict, the lack of government support. I even had to explain to some people what genocide was, it was important just to get that awareness out there,' he said.
The group is also planning a car wash this summer and they still have t-shirts available if anyone would like to purchase them. For more information on how to support the group you can call Jaipaul at 403-352-8531.
The walkers included; teacher Ron Labrie, Jaipaul, Emma Curran, Maria Schultz, Neil Thompson, Danielle Comeau, Amy Baumgartner, Carielle Walsh, Tyrell Kochanski, Erin Golley, Scott Halland, Travis Kostivk, Lisa Widdifield, Brandon Curkan and the youth pastor from Youth for Christ Jerel Peters. They also received food and water donations from Hamilton's IGA, Extra Foods and Subway who provided lunch for them. A special thank-you also goes out to their driver Karen Dean who helped with supplies, kept the group hydrated and handed out snacks. Check out next week's Ponoka News for a first hand account of the group's adventure by Jaipaul.