Day 107: Walkabout

I’ve been inspired recently by stories of how one person really can make a difference.

This isn’t news — I’m sure individuals have been making the world a better place ever since the first caveman or cavewoman shared their brontosaurus burger with a less fortunate cave neighbour (sorry, my Flintstones-watching heritage is showing). But I guess I just haven’t been paying attention until now.

So I plan to spotlight these everyday heroes on Sundays, if I can.

Today’s heroes come from my own home city, Toronto. I’ve found my city to be a cold, uncaring place at times, but I happened upon a booth at a recent outdoor festival and was pretty proud of what two of my fellow Torontonians — Adrian Bradbury and Kieran Hayward — have managed to accomplish in three short years.

Adrian and Kieran first heard stories of the “night commuters” of northern Uganda in the spring of 2005. They read unbelievable accounts of children — as many as 40,000 — walking from their rural villages into the town of Gulu and other urban centres to sleep in relative safety and avoid abduction by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) for use in the country’s 22-year war.

The plight of these children sparked the idea for GuluWalk, a 31-day night commute to raise awareness about their lives. Every evening in July of 2005, Adrian and Kieran walked 12.5 kilometres into downtown Toronto to sleep in front of city hall.

At sunrise, after about fours hours sleep, they made the trek home. Both men continued to work full-time and attempted to maintain their daily routine to mimic the lifestyle endured by the Acholi children of northern Uganda.

What started as a 31-day attempt by two people to better understand the ordeal of the children of northern Uganda, has now grown into a worldwide movement for peace. Every year, more than 30,000 people around the world walk to tell this same story, and to keep the world’s attention focused on the children of northern Uganda.

Today, although the night commuting has stopped, over 1.7-million people have been displaced from their homes and forced to live in squalid camps. There, huts are packed tightly together, access to clean water is limited and violence and disease are rampant. So the GuluWalk continues.

Last year, on Saturday, October 20, 2007, GuluWalk Day, over 30,000 people, in 100 cities in 16 different countries took to the streets to urge the world to support peace in northern Uganda. Since it’s inception, GuluWalk has raised over $1-million for the children of northern Uganda.

Not a bad effort for two guys from Toronto. This year’s GuluWalk will take place on October 25, 2008. So if you’d like to walk, donate or just find out more about GuluWalk, click the link in my blogroll.

And if you know of any other everyday heroes I can include here, I’d love to hear about them, so please let me know.

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