In 1985, a group of globally-minded women from Vancouver rounded up 1,000 people for what they called the Partnership Walk in order to raise money for global poverty. The instigators had immigrated from Asia and Africa and wanted to make a difference for those still living in poverty.

That first year’s walk raised $55,000 in donations.

Today, the event is sponsored by the Aga Khan Foundation and has raised over $82 million for international development programs in the past 30 years. The Partnership Walk is held every year on the last Sunday in May in 10 Canadian cities including Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, London, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Kitchener-Waterloo and Montreal. The walk is Canada’s most successful humanitarian event.

In 2013, the walk raised over $7 million and had 40,000 walkers across 10 cities in Canada. The 2014 walk is anticipated to raise over $7 million across Canada with around 25,000 walkers.

With the money raised, the Aga Khan Foundation puts 100 percent of the donations toward sustainable solutions such as education, clean water and community development.

“We didn’t just give them money or material support, we gave them knowledge and skills as well as advice,” said an Aga Khan representative about a village in Zanzibar that benefitted from the walk.

Aga Khan understands that their efforts cannot be black and white. Each country and community must be approached differently depending on resource availability, government structure and cultural beliefs, among other factors.

For the 2014 walk, the U.N. Women National Committee Canada joined the walk.

“People often say to me, ‘I’m just one person. I can’t make a difference,” said Almas Jiwani, the U.N. Women National Committee’s president. “The World Partnership Walk is something anyone can do to effect change.”

In addition to participants, individuals who sponsor walkers and those who volunteer make a huge difference in the event’s success.

As Jiwani said, anyone can participate in the walk and by doing so be part of the solution to eradicate poverty. The walk offers people an outlet in which they can be a part of something greater than themselves. Individuals can collaborate to affect the world in a much greater way than one individual’s efforts alone.

Heather Klosterman

Sources: Aga Khan Foundation, Global News, World Partnership Walk
Photo: Arlen Redekop