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The World Partnership Walk Virtual Voyage took Canadians around the world without leaving home.

Aga Khan Foundation Canada
Published October 23, 2021
A yurt in Tajikistan. Photo: Christopher Wilton-Steer/AKDN

Instead of embarking on foot to travel World Partnership Walk routes in 10 cities across the country in 2020, Walk supporters across Canada set off on a digital journey to help fight global poverty.

Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s (AKFC) two major fundraising campaigns—World Partnership Walk and World Partnership Golf—were suspended in early 2020 due to COVID-19. 

But despite the pause in fundraising, the need for support was only growing. While the pandemic is framed as a health crisis, COVID-19 has wide-ranging social and economic effects—compromising the education of hundreds of millions of students, plunging families into hunger, and clawing back decades of gains in women’s empowerment and gender equality. Homeschooling children during school closures, caring for sick household members and other unpaid domestic work have fallen disproportionately to women.   

Programs in Africa and Asia supported by AKFC immediately adapted to respond to urgent needs, like providing personal protective equipment to healthcare workers (in particular, frontline workers, the majority of whom are women); supporting teachers, students and parents as they undertake distance learning; and putting measures in place to safeguard against rising risks of sexual and gender-based violence brought on by lockdown measures. 

To ensure continued support for these crucial programs, AKFC teamed up with Aga Khan Foundation USA to launch the Virtual Voyage in October. Over the course of the fall, Voyage participants travelled to four countries in Africa and Asia in an online fundraising campaign.

Participants who signed up for this new and innovative Walk campaign learned about the immediate response to COVID-19 in four countries where the Aga Khan Development Network is active, as well as the long-term progress made possible thanks to annual support from the Walk. 

The Voyage’s first stop was in Kenya. Voyagers traveled alongside nurses and doctors like Dr. Ben Lipesa, as they staffed a mobile clinic in a rural village in their region before the pandemic, providing services such as family planning, pre- and post-natal care, pediatrics, cancer screening, HIV testing and dispensing medications. 
Dr. Ben Lipesa. Photo: Esther Mbabazi/AKFC

Recent nursing school graduate Olga was one of the tour guides on the second leg of the journey in Mozambique. She talked about her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse, and how she plans to use her training at the Pemba nursing school—which was supported by AKFC and the Government of Canada—to save the lives of women and newborns.

Olga. Photo: Rich Townsend/AKFC

In Afghanistan, the virtual travellers met Istoray, a tailor. Through entrepreneurship training supported by AKFC, she learned new skills like marketing and identifying business opportunities. When the pandemic began, she was able to pivot her business to make face masks to sell locally, doubling her monthly income at a time when many businesses are struggling to make ends meet.

Istoray at her sewing machine. Photo: AKF Afghanistan

At the final stop in Tajikistan, Hangoma, a student at the University of Central Asia, detailed her experiences with distance learning during the pandemic. The university has supplied every student with a laptop and 30 GB of internet access per month, so that they can keep up with their studies at home and participate in activities like virtual field trips. 

Hangoma. Photo: AKDN

These are just a few of the many stories shared during the Voyage, which raised more than $5.4 million to support AKFC’s programs around the world thanks to the efforts of fundraisers and volunteers across Canada. 

The campaign culminated in the Homecoming Celebration on December 6. Voyage participants from across Canada and the United States came together in a virtual event to mark their fundraising achievements and celebrate the progress made possible thanks to their support. 

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