As we launch the 2021 World Partnership Walk (WPW) campaign, I have been reflecting on how much has changed since 2019, the year I completed my service as Chair of the Victoria World Partnership Walk, an initiative of Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC). While the pandemic halted the in-person event in 2019 and 2020, it didn’t stop the spirit of the walk that once brought together close to forty thousand Canadians in ten cities across the country in an effort to help fight global poverty.
Like many organizations, AKFC pivoted to a digital campaign in 2020 to continue its work supporting marginalized communities in Asia and Africa. After over 35 years of raising funds to support 180 initiatives in fifteen countries, Canadians had the opportunity to see the impact of this fundraising through virtual visits that showcased some of these initiatives. We travelled virtually to Mozambique where we met Olga, a graduate of the Pemba Nursing School. Thanks to funds raised by the Walk, Olga received the training that she needed to achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. We also visited a team of dedicated healthcare workers in Kisumu, Kenya as they loaded up their mobile health clinic to serve hundreds of remote community members. This hit close to home for me as I completed my primary and secondary education in Kisumu. The University of Central Asia (UCA) in Tajikistan atop the Pamir Mountains was our next stop. This was another stop with much personal connection for me. During the early development stages of this institution whose mandate is to improve the quality of life of people living in mountain societies by providing relevant, quality education, I was invited to help conceptualize a co-operative education (co-op) program for UCA. An education model where students alternate academic terms with paid work terms related to their studies, co-op enhances students’ employability and prepares them for the world of work. My work with UCA led to a partnership with University of Victoria (UVic), which enabled us to play a key role in developing UCA’s co-op education program.
For several years now, the WPW has been held at UVic, bringing our local community onto campus in solidarity as we fight global poverty. To date, UVic faculty, staff and students have raised significant awareness and funds that have transformed the lives of millions, and earned UVic the status of top university or college team across Canada. As President Kevin Hall said in his op-ed in Times Colonist, from October 14, 2021, “universities need to work with local communities to address the complex problems of our world”. This engagement continues this year, with UVic’s Office of Global Engagement supporting the 2021 WPW virtual campaign on campus, sponsoring an exciting community engagement initiative - the WPW Green Themed Virtual Escape Room Challenge, and supporting a panel discussion on how AKFC programs are responding and adapting to the impacts of the pandemic at UVic Global Days (running November 15 to November 19, 2021 to showcase UVic engagements in addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (uvic.ca/event/global-days))
According to AKFC CEO Khalil Shariff, the Walk takes place at a time of “emerging optimism and ongoing concern. Although we are beginning to see light at the end of this long COVID tunnel in some parts of the world, in others,… the global pandemic and its consequences are still posing severe challenges.” At a time like this. President Hall’s words, “This feels like a time of transformational change for communities. Let’s walk it together,” are inspirational. Please consider forming a team, registering as an individual, or making a donation at worldpartnershipwalk.com and “walk” with us.
Karima Ramji serves as Associate Director, International, Indigenous and Strategic Initiatives at the University of Victoria's Co-operative Education Programs and Career Services. A Certified Advanced Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Professional, Karima espouses values of pluralism and servant leadership in all she does, and contributes to international development, poverty alleviation and community development through various community service engagements locally and internationally.