Friday, March 11, 2011

On spreading hope

Every year, I write a few blog posts about fundraising for the World Partnership Walk. I mention that it's Canada's largest annual event to raise funds and awareness to fight global poverty, and that the Walk is almost entirely organized by volunteers in 10 cities across Canada. And I'm always sure to include my favourite statistic - 100% of the funds raised go directly to fund long-term sustainable international development initiatives that help people help themselves.

Run by Aga Khan Foundation Canada through Aga Khan Development Network, a non-denominational, not-for-profit international agency, the projects promote cross-cutting social development to help improve the quality of life of some of the poorest people in the world by empowering them to identify and implement their own solutions. The programmes focus on health, education, rural development, and building the capacity of local communities and civil societies. They also always take into account gender equity and environmental concerns.

What does this mean? It means that villagers are provided with the human and material resources they need to get started on bettering their own lives, whatever that means to them. They take social and emotional ownership of the projects, and their investment on these levels means that they're truly committed to making it work. Even better? These projects spread hope not only in that village but in neighbouring villages as well, since the education and experience is easily transferred to others in similar contexts.

Plus, support garnered through the World Partnership Walk helps AKFC leverage the funds we raise. In fact, the Canadian International Development Agency matches funds raised for these projects, from 1 to 9 times. Last year, the average matching factor was of 4, which means that the $2,000 you helped me raised actually became $8,000. In a time where money is increasingly tight, this means a lot. Not just to me, but to the communities we're helping on the other side of the world. To the elders, parents, and children whose faces I personally saw filled with hope when I visited some of AKFC's projects in Kenya in 2009.

So where does that leave us? As our income is increasingly not earning us as much as it used to, it would be understandable for us to keep our money close and wallets closed. Food prices are hitting record highs across the world and Canadians won't be immune to the hikes. And that's not the only thing costing us more! If you pay energy bills, you probably noticed that your power and utilities costs have gone up too - look for increases of 3.5% per year over the next 20 years in Ontario. That's 7.9% per year in the next five years alone.

No matter how little you consume, that hurts. Every single one of us is undeniably feeling the pinch.

So just imagine how deeply despairing this pinch would be if you lived in the developing world. That's not to say that there aren't locals who are in situations that seem just as desperate. But when you can't even depend on existing infrastructure, socialist government programmes, or even the relative stability of your immediate environment, how are you supposed to get started on changing your life situation? There are no resources for you to access, in many cases, or if there are, you're probably physically unable to access them or blocked by corrupt practices. Rising costs affect us all, but at least we North Americans have the means to change our way of life to reduce their impact.

I don't like feeling like my situation is hopeless. I don't think anyone does. So please, help me raise funds for the 2011 World Partnership Walk so we can spread hope. Remember, we're all living on the same planet. Events taking place across the globe affect us more than we know, as the current food crisis shows. By sparking change at home, we can help enable change that matters in developing countries too. Together, I truly believe that we can put an end to world poverty, but it'll take time and we need to commit to change now.

You can help change the world by sponsoring me for the Walk here:

You can also register to raise funds here, or join the Kingston Hope-raisers team and start giving back to the global community.

PS: You can now find the Ottawa World Partnership Walk on Twitter: @WPWOttawa. Make sure to tag all your 2011 Walk tweets with #wpw27. "Like" the World Partnership Walk Ottawa fan page on Facebook and don't forget to RSVP on the event page. Hope to see you there!