by Jonathan Krause

If you look at a map of Australia, it’s hard to find two places further apart from north to south than Darwin in the Northern Territory and Victor Harbor on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. And both places are a long way from the refugee camps at Kakuma in Kenya.

Yet more than 700 students from seven Christian schools – six of them Lutheran – have stepped out in those two areas in Australian Lutheran World Service’s Walk My Way to help more than 6,000 refugee children to go to school at Kakuma. And in SA, the school walkers were joined by members of Lutheran congregations and the wider community.

Anita Synott, Year 12 Team Leader at Good Shepherd Lutheran College in Darwin, says Walk My Way was so popular with the school community, they held two events this spring. In total, Good Shepherd raised more than $16,800 – enough to support nearly 650 refugee children in school for a year.

‘We are incredibly proud of our college community for recognising this initiative as being something very special, with the ability to make a huge difference to others less fortunate than us’, Anita says.

The first walk featured Years 6–12 students and parents and involved more than 170 people. Participants could ride, run or walk the 26-kilometre trail from the Leanyer Campus in the northern suburbs of Darwin to the Howard Springs Campus 25 minutes south of Darwin.

Good Shepherd followed up its first Walk My Way with its junior school students organising a successful ‘coin trail’ activity and completing round-robin events held during lunchtimes.

Meanwhile, at Victor Harbor, approximately 80 kilometres south of Adelaide, six schools came together in October for the inaugural combined schools Walk My Way.

A total of 569 walkers from Concordia College, Rivergum Christian College, Encounter Lutheran College, Immanuel College, Cornerstone College, and Endeavour College could choose either a 13-kilometre course or a 20-kilometre course. Each course included a circuit of local landmark Granite Island and started and finished at Encounter Lutheran College, just north of the town centre.

Before the Victor Harbor walk, ALWS Emergency Coordinator Peter Egesa reminded students why their help was so important, saying: ‘The UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) estimates there are 89 million refugees and internally displaced people globally [and] 41 per cent of these refugees are children – one-and-a-half times the population of Australia. As you walk today, think about a child in Djibouti who is in a tent as a classroom and the temperatures are over 45 degrees and there is no cooling facility.’

As of 16 November, the Victor Harbor walkers had raised $62,912, enough to support 2,419 refugee children to go to school.

The Victor Harbor and Darwin events are part of a nationwide Walk My Way effort, with members of our Lutheran family taking part from congregations including Cowell on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, Unley in Adelaide, and Rochedale in Queensland, as well as through Lutheran Services in the Sunshine State. As of 16 November, 1,035 walkers had raised $169,956 across 10 walks and supported education for 6,537 refugee children.

ALWS Executive Director Michael Stolz has praised the way so many parts of the LCANZ are forming partnerships to support refugee children and show the community our church at work. ‘Seeing Lutheran schools come together like this, encouraged by Lutheran Education Australia, supported by the LLL and LCA, welcomed by the hospitality and volunteer time of local Lutheran congregations – this is a snapshot of what it means for us to be a church where love comes to life’, he says. ‘It’s a privilege for ALWS to bring Walk My Way to our Lutheran Church’s ministries so that we can “walk in the way of love” to help refugee children who are so vulnerable, and in danger of being forgotten by the world.’

LLL Australia is a major sponsor of Walk My Way, while LEA, ‘The School Photographer’ and local businesses also supported the Victor Harbor event.

Jonathan Krause is ALWS Community Action Manager.

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