Canton walkers paced through Malone University’s campus Friday evening, but in their minds they followed the steps of refugees from Syria, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Bhutan and other troubled countries.
It was all part of “#RefugeesBelong — A Walk In Their Shoes,” a 24-hour event organized by the university’s Social Work Department and be:Justice, a student group focused on social justice.
With a minimum donation of $25, the walk raised money for World Relief Akron, a non-profit evangelical group that helps refugees make lives in the United States.
The walking was scheduled to end 6 p.m. Saturday with a welcoming service at the Johnson Center Chapel where refugees would share their stories. World Relief Akron Director Kara Ulmer would be the featured speaker.
Along with raising money, the event aimed to dispel myths about refugees, said Elizabeth Patterson Roe, a Malone associate professor of social work who spent her sabbatical with World Relief Akron.
Refugees go through a strict screening that can take two years, they come to the United States as legal residents and they get little government assistance, but can be an economic boost to struggling cities, Roe said.
“There are refugees being settled only minutes from here,” she said, referring to Akron’s growing refugee community.
Making the rounds
Syed Atif, 39, of North Canton, brought his young sons on the walk to teach them about what people go through in other countries.
Opinions on refugees in this country are split, but there are a lot of misconceptions, he said.
“No doubt, security is important,” Atif said, but if that can be ensured, something needs to be done for refugees.
Mike and Sharon McConnell of North Canton walked in the steps of a Syrian refugee.
“I assume we’re leaving out of Aleppo and trying to get to a refugee camp,” Sharon, 67, said.
Knowing that refugees spend months, even years, in camps is scary, Mike, 68, said. “It’s hard to imagine. ”
Sharon said she was troubled by scenes of children drowning at sea while fleeing war or becoming casualties of the fighting.
“It is our problem,” Sharon said. “We’re Christian and we need to help all people.”
Added Mike, “We were basically all refugees at one time.”
Read more at Malone’s refugees event raises money, awareness.