In a pivotal scene in the movie Victoria and Abdul, Queen Victoria laments her life to her munshi (teacher) Abdul: “I have had 9 children, all vain, jealous and at loggerheads with each other.... And look at me – a fat, lame, impotent silly old woman. What is the point, Abdul?” she sobs. “What is the point?” To which Abdul responds, “Service. We are not here to worry about ourselves. We are here for a greater purpose.”
Service to others comes in multiple forms – time, knowledge and resources. This ethic of service is central to our shared Canadian values. Just look at the numerous voluntary hours Canadians contribute to causes that they feel a connection to, be it serving in soup kitchens, helping people with their tax returns, or sharing their knowledge with schools and community groups.
Canadians also participate in multiple peer-to-peer fundraising events across the country to help improve the quality of life of others. Peer to Peer Fundraising Canada recently released the results of its 2017 Top Thirty Benchmarking Survey (http://www.p2pfundraisingcanada.com/). While nine of the top 10 events were related to health issues, one – ranked ninth on this list – focuses on poverty alleviation beyond our borders. This event, today known as World Partnership Walk, started over 30 years ago, when a group of immigrant women in Vancouver wanted to give back to communities they had left behind in Africa and Asia. They engaged 1000 other Canadians and started the first walk to fight global poverty. Today, over 40,000 Canadians put their ethic of service, compassion and sharing into action and step forward to end global poverty every year. They step forward as ambassadors who raise funds, they step forward as team captains who start a Walk team at their workplace, school, college, university, or with their friends and families, they step forward as donors and walkers and they step forward as volunteers who organize and deliver a phenomenal walk day experience to Canadians across our beautiful country. From its humble beginnings, World Partnership Walk has become Canada’s largest event in support of international development, having raised more than $100 million since 1985 to address the root causes of poverty, and help unlock a brighter future for all.
His Highness the Aga Khan emphasized the importance of service to others: “There are those, …, who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their lot. Unless these unfortunates can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.” (Speech at the Inauguration of the Aga Khan Baug, Versova, India, January 17, 1983). I envisioned those sparks of hope as I explored the 1 Million Lives Unlocked digital report (https://1millionlives.akfc.ca), which shares the results of an unprecedented partnership between Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the Government of Canada to tackle the root causes of poverty in Africa and Asia – a partnership made possible through Canadians’ support of World Partnership Walk.
Let’s put our values of care, compassion and service in action again this year and provide that spark of hope! Step forward with us at World Partnership Walk in Victoria on Sunday May 27 starting at 9.30 AM at the University of Victoria, and in Vancouver on Sunday June 17 starting at 8.30 AM at Lumbermen's Arch, Stanley Park. www.worldpartnershipwalk.com
Karima Ramji is the Manager of International Programs at University of Victoria’s Co-operative Education Program and Career Services, and has the honor of serving as Chair of the Victoria World Partnership Walk.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the TImes Colonist on Saturday, March 31 2017