Here is an FAQ based on questions we’ve already answered, as well as some we're assuming are going to arise.
1. Q: What’s the plan?
A: The plan is for us (Elizabeth Bromstein and David Jager) to take our five-year-old daughter, Kismet, and walk 135 km (or so) from our house in Toronto to Niagara Falls. We plan to do this over about six days, starting on May 8.
We will document the entire trek on social media with videos, pictures on Instagram (@ruthbromstein), blog posts (walklikearefugee.org), tweets (@missbromstein), and more, with the hashtag #walklikearefugee. Hopefully people will follow along and feel moved to make a donation and to tell your friends.
2. Q: Why?
A: We want to and we need to do something to try to raise funds and awareness. Our group, the Westside Refugee Response has already brought one family of refugees to Canada through private sponsorship. Now we’re trying to help two more people.
Their situation is very serious and they are in danger of it becoming much worse.
Unfortunately, North America is facing crisis fatigue and people are kind of over refugees. Asylum seekers were a hot topic a couple of years ago, but most people have moved on from the subject and just aren’t interested anymore. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the situation is any better for the millions of displaced individuals out there.
Every day people all over the world are forced to take their families and children and whatever they can carry wand walk to safety. These journeys can be hundreds or even thousands of kilometres. We thought we would try to emulate this experience as closely as is reasonably possible.
3. Q: But wait. This sounds familiar. Didn't you do this before?
Yes! You remembered! In October 2016, we walked to raise funds to file their sponsorship application. We did that. Now we need to raise funds for their settlement in Toronto.
4. Q: Wait! Is your daughter going to WALK 135 KMS!? ARE YOU CRAZY?
A: Of course not. She’ll ride in a stroller or converted bike trailer thingy most of the time and walk when she feels like it.
5. Q: A stroller or converted bike trailer thingy ? Isn’t that cheating?
A: You know they have strollers in Africa and the Middle East, right? If you had to leave your home with a young child, you’d obviously take the stroller. (You can put a kid AND bags in it. They’re super handy.)
6. Q: OK, fair enough. Where will you sleep?
A: We haven’t figure that out yet. We’re hoping people will offer us places to stay so we don’t have to spend money, which would be counter to our goals. We’d camp, but neither of us is really the survivalist type so we’re not confident in our ability to carry gear and to camp and keep our child safe all at once. If we have to we’ll stay in reasonably priced hotels. We're hoping some hotels will step up to sponsor us with rooms.
Update: We stayed with friends some nights, friends of friends another night, and two hotels generously offered us rooms on separate nights. One is the wonderful White Oaks Resort & Spa and the other is the lovely Casablanca Winery Inn. Thank you to them!
7. Q: But that’s not really “walking like a refugee,” is it? Doesn’t that make you some kind of hypocrite loser poser who's just doing this for attention, meaning I can sneer at your efforts and make fun of you on social media instead of supporting you?
A: We don’t think it does. We can only have reasonable expectations of ourselves and try to the best of our capabilities. We don’t want to put our daughter in harm’s way to make a point. Similarly, there’s a stretch of service road that was pretty scary last time. If we start to feel that she is unsafe, we’ll need our driver, Terry, to drive her over it and we’ll pick her up on the other side.
8. Q: What will you take with you?
A: A change of clothes, computers and tech stuff for documenting the journey, snacks, water. A friend will be driving to our destinations carrying emergency gear, rain gear, and extra clothes, in case we get into trouble.
9. Q: Repeat of Question 7.
A: Again, we have to have reasonable expectations. These people REALLY need our help and we’re hoping you’ll support us, join in, donate funds, share the hashtag, and even come out and walk with us for a few kilometres if we happen to be going through your hood. That would be AWESOME!
10. Q: Did the people you’re trying to help have to walk a long distance?
A: No, they didn’t. They’ve had different kind of difficulties. Like being stuck in a hostile country with no means of make a living and facing deportation back to a dictatorial regime where they face almost certain imprisonment. And consequently having to spend time in hiding. So, it’s not a perfect correlation, but this was the closest symbolic gesture we could think of to make.
11. Q: What will you do if you raise more than your goal?
Both Terry (our support team) and I are volunteers at Matthew House, a network of shelters for asylum seekers in Canada. We will donate any extra funds to them.
12. Q: What do you hope to get out of this?
A: In our ultimate fantasies we garner the support of thousands and fundraise ten times our goal. Our hashtag goes viral, and hundreds of people come out to walk with us. We sing, we hug, we laugh, we cry. Our daughter learns a valuable lesson about the strength of community support and the importance of making an effort and making a difference. Our refugee friends arrive safely and quickly and everyone lives happily ever after. Julia Roberts and Samuel L. Jackson play us in the movie which is, of course, a musical.
13. Q: What if that doesn’t happen?
A: If nobody pays attention and we don’t raise any money, at the end of the day we got some exercise. We made an effort, and we went on an adventure. We did what we felt we had to do. There’s nothing particularly terrible about that. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
But we hope for the first scenario.
Thanks for reading!