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Walk this Sunday to support refugees

On Sunday June 23, the first Grand Rapids Refugee Walk will take place at Ah-Nab-Awen Park. The 5K walk will help Bethany's to refugee resettlement program in West Michigan.
Refugees assisted by Bethany Christian Services.

Refugees assisted by Bethany Christian Services. /Photo by Benjamin Sunuwar

GR Refuge Walk 2013 Information

Sunday, June 23

Ah-Nab-Awen Park

Register or Donate

3:00 p.m.         Event Check-in

3:20 p.m.         Welcome Speech

3:30 p.m.         Start of Walk

4:30 p.m.         End of Walk

4:45 p.m.         Closing Ceremony

5:00 p.m.         Presentation of Awards

5:10 p.m.-7 p.m.          Music, Food, and Fellowship

Ah-Nab-Awen Park, where the Refugee Walk will take place.

Ah-Nab-Awen Park, where the Refugee Walk will take place. /Photo by Michael Walton

Refugees assisted by Bethany Christian Services.

Refugees assisted by Bethany Christian Services. /Photo by Benjamin Sunuwar

In honor of World Refugee Day, Bethany Christian Services will host the first Grand Rapids Refugee Walk this Sunday at Ah-Nab-Awen Park. It’s a 5K walk that will raise money to support Bethany’s Refugee Services program.

The Refugee Walk is a way to show solidarity and raise funds for the many different peoples who have come to make Grand Rapids their home. Refugees living in Grand Rapids will be among those walking. The route does not cross any roads so it’s safe for children. The walk will start at 3:00 p.m. and end at 4:30 p.m.

June 20 is World Refugee Day. Established by the United Nations in 2000, it’s meant to honor refugees and raise awareness to the fact that violence and persecution still force people from their homes. According to Sarah Clark of Bethany Christian Services, Michigan is one of the largest states for the resettlement of refugees.

“We do actually have a large number of people coming in, about 600 [per year], to Grand Rapids,” Clark says.

The Refugee Services program offers services to make the transition to American society as smooth as possible. These include English classes, medical services and a New Neighbor program that partners refugees up with a volunteer advisor and friend for three months. In some programs, volunteers teach refugees about surprisingly commonplace things that Americans take for granted, like how to use the bus system.

The refugees who have gone through Bethany’s program have been forced to abandon their first home under various threats. Jotham Ippel, Refugee Ressettlement Coordinator at Bethany, says they've come here from troubled regions like Burma, Somalia, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The goal is that we treat each of the folks who are coming with the dignity and respect they deserve,” says Ippel.

Bethany invites the community to stay for the award ceremony and celebration after the walk. Ippel says that the festivities will celebrate cultural contributions the refugees have made to the community. Activities will be available during and after the 5K, including live music, a craft fair, live weaving demonstration, traditional storytelling and a short film screening. The celebration will be from 5:10 p.m to 7:00 p.m.

Those interested in the walk are encouraged to register beforehand. Participants can register at the door, but registering early helps with the fundraising process. There’s no registration fee, but walkers are encouraged to set a personal goal of raising $100 in donations.

At time of writing, Bethany has raised $6,687 of their $15,000 goal. For those who cannot attend, Bethany encourages tax-deductible donation to support a walker.

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