As part of Pacer’s UNHCR: Step With Refugees Challenge, we’re sharing the stories of actual refugees who had to travel great distances to reach safety. These are the stories of 2 such displaced people: Alin from Myanmar and Eva from South Sudan. While their journeys were difficult, these are hopeful stories of people who were helped by UNHCR and are currently making a better life for themselves. Alin traveled 102 km, while Eva traveled an incredible 409 km to reach safety. They’re incredible testaments to the ability of the human body to cover great distances, and the ability of the human spirit to overcome obstacles.
We hope that these stories encourage you to learn more about the UNHCR “2 Billion Kilometers to Safety” challenge, and give you extra motivation to hit your personal step goals.
Note: These stories are excerpts from more detailed stories that you can find on the UNHCR’s website. Please visit their site to learn more and read more stories like these.
Join the Challenge in Pacer
Pacer users can join the UNHCR: Step With Refugees Challenge using this link! Walk for a unique cause and earn unique badges to commemorate your participation.
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Alin Nisa was forced to flee her home in Myanmar in the middle of the night when armed men arrived in her village. The 22-year-old Rohingya woman fled with her husband, two children and aging mother-in-law. Alin carried their two young children, while her husband carried his mother who could not walk long distances. This meant that the family was able to escape with little but the clothes on their backs.
Alin’s journey took her 102 km, though the journey was even more difficult than that would seem. Her family had to cross mountains and wade through rivers and water-logged paddy fields – often in torrential rain. With no food or money, the family survived thanks to the kindness of strangers, though often they did not eat at all.
Alin’s story has a happy ending, however! After reaching safety in Bangladesh, Alin was greeted by blue-vested UNHCR staff members who gave food and shelter to her family and others like them. UNHCR provided materials to build a shelter and keep out the frequent, pouring rain. Alin’s family has blankets, food, and kitchen supplies so Alin can cook for her family. Despite the difficult journey, Alin and her family is safe and working to build a better life in their new home.
Alin’s journey in numbers:
Assuming Alin is 5’4″ and walked at about 3.2 km/h (2 mph), she would have needed about 1,838 steps to cover 1 km or 2,966 steps to cover 1 mile. Over her 102 km journey, that’s over 187,000 steps over 10 days or 18,000+ steps per day. She was able to make that journey while carrying her children much of the time through very difficult terrain.
At the age of only 9 years old, Eva was forced to flee her home in South Sudan all by herself when her family was attacked by armed men. Eva walked, alone for 6 days straight – covering a distance of 243 km – until she eventually reached the South Sudan/Ethiopia border.
Fortunately, a kind woman gave Eva shoes, clothes and a bit of money to cross the river into Ethiopia. She eventually reached the Tirgol transportation center in Ethiopia, where she and others reached the safety of UNHCR personnel. In total, Eva had walked over 249 km. She was able to receive food, water and clothes from UNCHR staff, and after a few days UNHCR helped her reach the Nguenyyiel refugee camp (by bus this time). Including the bus trip, Eva traveled 409 km to finally reach safety.
Eva’s story also has a happy ending. While she was forced to leave her home and family behind, UNHCR has helped Eva receive food, clothes, shelter and most important of all safety. She’s an incredible young woman to have been able to make such a trip, and we certainly hope that she’s able to continue to make a better life for herself now that she’s reached safety.
Eva’s journey in numbers.
It’s difficult to even imagine, let alone calculate Eva’s journey. Eva walked 249 km in around 7 days. If we assume Eva walked at a faster pace than Alin, but had a smaller stride length, we might assume a similar 1,838 steps per km/ 2,966 steps mile. That would mean Eva took as much as 458,000 steps in 7 days, or 65,000 steps per day. While we don’t have all of the details of Eva’s story, it’s difficult to even imagine how a 9-year-old was able to accomplish that feat. The good news is that at least Eva has reached safety, in a place where UNHCR is helping her with food, water, clothing and the chance to build a new life for herself where she can live in safety.
About the UNHCR: Step With Refugees Challenge in Pacer
Pacer’s 102 km UNHCR: Step With Refugees Challenge challenges Pacers to match the journey of Alin, a refugee from Myanmar, who traveled 102 km from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Alin and her family traveled the 102 km in 10 days, but we’re giving Pacers 30 days to ensure more people can participate. When walking, consider that Alin and her husband had to carry relatives with them as well. Alin carried their two small children, while her husband carried her mother-in-law who could not walk such a long distance.
The UNHCR is the United Nations refugee agency. Since 1950, UNHCR has provided assistance to refugees, internally-displaced people and others forced to flee where they live. The help provided by UNHCR allows these displaced people to rebuild their lives and provide for their families. UNHCR employs over 16,000 people and works in over 130 countries worldwide. It also gathers data on displaced people to determine how many people need help, what help they need and how best to help these vulnerable people.
About Step With Refugees
Every year, refugees travel a collective 2 billion miles (roughly 1 billion miles) from their homes to reach the nearest place of safety. While 80% of refugees live in countries neighboring their countries of origin, their journies are often long, dangerous and difficult. Their journeys, often mostly on foot, take them through jungles, deserts, and hills – often while assisting or carrying young children or older relatives.
Step With Refugees – 2 Billion Kilometers to Safety is an effort to encourage people to walk a collective 2 billion kilometers in support of these refugees. This campaign helps to raise awareness about the sheer scale of displacement worldwide, as well as bring important facts (like the fact that most refugees stay close to home, and only 1% are ever resettled to third countries).
For more information on 2 Billion Kilometers to Safety, click this link.
How do I join the UNHCR: Step With Refugees challenge?
If you’re an iOS Pacer user in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, or South Korea, you should see the Step With Refugees challenge in your challenge list (assuming you’re reading this before Dec 18th, 2019). Click the “Join” button to join directly, or click anywhere else on the challenge card for more details.
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