Australians ‘Walk My Way’ to support refugee children

Clients and staff of South Australia’s Lutheran Disability Service joined hundreds of participants taking part in a ‘Walk My Way’ fundraising event through the Barossa Valley on 1 May. All photos: ALWS
Clients and staff of South Australia’s Lutheran Disability Service joined hundreds of participants taking part in a ‘Walk My Way’ fundraising event through the Barossa Valley on 1 May. All photos: ALWS

Lutheran schools and churches join fundraising walk to help LWF bring education to thousands of African children

(LWI) - Thousands of refugee children in East Africa will be able to attend school and get a better start in life thanks to the generosity of Lutherans of all ages who are taking part in the Lutheran Church of Australia’s (LCA) ‘Walk My Way’ initiative. Participants walk, run or cycle up to 26 kilometers to raise funds and to put into action the church’s motto of ‘bringing Love to Life’.

The annual fundraising effort, which began in 2017, is run by Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS), the overseas aid and resettlement agency of the LCA. Its goal this year is to support the schooling of 10.000 children from South Sudan, Somalia and Burundi, mainly by sending money through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) programs in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp.

 ALWS

650 walkers of all ages and abilities took part in the ‘Walk My Way’ fundraising event on 1 May

Funds raised will help supply books, uniforms, teaching materials, desks, the building of classrooms and the training of teachers, with a focus on supporting girls and children with disabilities. As well as providing quality education in the Kakuma refugee camp, it will be used to support displaced children in Somalia and others in South Sudan who have fled from their homes because of conflict, floods and locust plagues.

Bringing Love to Life

The initiative grew out of a trip by teachers from several Lutheran schools to refugee camps in Djibouti in East Africa, where they witnessed the power of education to bring hope and change lives. The visit inspired them to step out in solidarity with the refugees, while stories of pioneering Lutheran women, who walked 26 kilometers to bring homegrown goods to market, helped to shape the first ‘Walk My Way’ event.

The first walk was held in the Adelaide hills, starting at Hahndorf, where Prussian Lutheran migrants settled in 1838, but the initiative has since grown to include all of Australia’s states. In 2019, members of many Lutheran congregations and schools raised enough money to support over 8.800 children. Last year, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, participants were asked to ‘Walk Your Way’ in individual or socially distanced events.

 ALWS

Rev. Adrian Kitson

On 1 May this year, a record turnout of people, clad in their trademark blue T-shirts and supported by volunteers and local businesses, took part in the walk through the wine-growing hills of the Barossa Valley. Lutheran pastor, singer and songwriter, Rev. Adrian Kitson was among the first four walkers to finish the route and then led his band in providing music and entertainment for others crossing the finishing line.

Kitson commented that in these difficult times “this gathering was a great encouragement to many [….] who sensed that we were doing something good together because God is still bringing us together.” He added he hoped that “Walk My Way can help us unlock that same ‘have a go,’ ‘trust the Lord’ and ‘work for the Gospel’ spirit back in our home mission places.”

 ALWS

Professor Lisa Schmidt

Associate Professor Lisa Schmidt, executive director of Lutheran Education Australia, took part in the walk because her own father was born in a refugee camp, before arriving in Australia and receiving a good education there. “All children and their future descendants should have that chance, no matter where or when they are born, or the state of the world they are born into,” she said.

“You can’t tell people’s stories under the sun hats and bright blue T-shirts, but we’ve all got one,” Schmidt added. “It was a wonderful day of getting together and putting in an effort to make a difference for someone we haven't and probably will never meet. For one day, we were all part of that same story.”

 ALWS

Dr Tania Nelson

After completing the 26-kilometer course, LCA Executive Officer for Local Mission, Dr Tania Nelson said the initiative “is a brilliant way to make a difference in the lives of refugee children. It’s well known that a key to alleviating poverty is education. And who could resist a walk in the beautiful Barossa? Gaining a couple of blisters is the least that I could do to ensure children receive an education!”

LWF/P. Hitchen