We love stories from our members about their experience with JCI London! So much about what it means to be a JCI member can be learnt from personal accounts of other members themselves. This one is from JCI London member and Refugee Project Lead Azem Alptekin on how he found our Autumn Hike earlier this month:
After an evening flight from Istanbul, landing in London around 11.30pm and getting home about 2.30am, I was quite exhausted. However, tomorrow was the day of the first step of our Refugees Project. I woke up at 8.30 and took the train to Windsor at 11.20 from the Paddington Station.
Windsor, the city of royalty. The Royal Borough of Windsor, in other words. I thought being neighbour with the Queen again would be fun.
We met with members of our project team, Mirjam, being our host, then Emmanuel, Chantelle, Hannah, Ali, Yehya and Lavu. The Long Walk was the main route of our hike. The deer park was supposed to be closed due to the mating season for deer. Luckily the part on our route was open for us, for the public.
When I think of the hike as the first step of our project, I cannot think of anything else more suitable, since the refugees set on an unknown journey, usually on foot, with whatever they can carry with themselves. They have a destination in mind, but the end is, in most cases, what they wanted in the first place.
I, then, remembered the first refugee I met in my hometown back in 1995. Two young men from Iran. One of them, the one speaking English better, told me the meaning of my name, which is not a quite common name. Since they were asylum seekers, they weren’t even allowed to interact with the local people. They had to stay away or else the police would warn and maybe even make them to do so.
Refugees leave their hometown, homeland, their loved ones and their neighbours and everything and everyone you can imagine. They don’t do this for fun or for other reasons. They are running for their lives. Can you think of anyone, who would leave their home, take their babies, their children and start on an unknown journey, most probably a lot of dangers waiting for them? Can you think of anyone getting in a small boat to cross a channel, along with their children and even babies? There are no realistic statistics about the survival rate of such journeys. All they want is to survive. Simple as that. Nothing more. Anything extra is a reason to be happier.
In order to reach our goal for this project, we decided to partner up with an organisation working with refugees. Upon some research, we decided to work with Refugee Action. They are a great organisation, a charity working for and with refugees for the last 40 years.
Going back to Saturday, the 9th October, the weather was amazing: Sunny and just the right weather for a hike, not too hot, not too cool. On our way, we discovered that they let us through the deer park too. We walked the 4km part to the statue of George III and then rested a while. We had some drinks, thanks to Mirjam and her birch water business Osel Birch. I brought some handmade chocolate from my good friend Ozge (Glories) and we had our rest. During the rest, Lavu joined us too. He sped up in order to reach us before we would walk back.
On the way back, we visited a local pub and had some drinks and food. Having walked over 8km that day, I would definitely say that we felt, somewhat, what the refugees face in their struggle to reach some safe lands.
We also had some team building there. Especially our two new members Ali and Hannah worked the details of this event. I know for a fact that new members, when engaged in activities right away, tend to stay in the volunteering based organisations far longer and feel that they are a part of the whole family.
As can be expected, I took a lot of photos during the walk. Even though I was somewhat tired from my travel, I felt quite alive and energetic because of all the enthusiasm from other team members. I felt that we were doing a right thing and that we could create some change, help refugees with this project. In the end, this was the main objective of our project, to create change in some refugees’ lives.
I would definitely recommend everybody to take part in this project or any similar project. We have just one world to live in. Even though there are works undergoing, in order to colonise other planets like Mars. Just like colonising and exploiting different parts of our planet in the past, that will not properly work unless we learn that we are a part of the world, not the master of it. We are supposed to act like a part of our societies, our lands, the nature. We are not supposed to be the ruling elite. As soon as we release that, the world will be a much better place for all.
Thanks so much Azem! To contribute to our initiative please visit out JustGiving page here
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This post was written by Chantelle Nylander - Quartey