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Walk from South Surrey border to New Westminster ‘in solidarity’ with refugees

30-km trek raised money for Journey Home Community
James Grunau (left) and John Dyck, two of Journey Home Community’s founders, set off from the Peace Arch/Douglas border to Welcome Homes in New Westminster on Friday (Oct. 1, 2021) to bring attention to the displacement refugee families face. (Contributed photo)

Founders of an organization that helps refugee claimants overcome barriers paced more than 30 kilometres Friday (Oct. 1) to raise money and awareness for the cause.

James Grunau and John Dyck of Journey Home Community walked from the Peace Arch/Douglas border in South Surrey to New Westminster to “replicate a symbolic journey” which many families must make from the U.S. border to a place of safety.

“That’s why we came up with it, is the idea of reproducing what refugees do,” Dyck said Monday. “They do a lot of walking. Any number of our families do get across at Peace Arch and end up walking, maybe not to (New Westminster), but somewhere into town.”

It was hoped the effort, dubbed ‘Founders’ Feet,’ would raise at least $16,000 for Journey Home Community (JHC) – $1,000 for every year that the organization has been serving refugee families. But Dyck said it actually exceeded the goal by the time he and Grunau reached the halfway-point of their trek. As of Monday (Oct. 4), more than $20,000 had been raised.

The walk was part of this year’s Ride for Refuge 2021, which was held Saturday (Oct. 2) at Burnaby’s Central Park and aims to support “charities who provide refuge and hope for displaced, vulnerable, and exploited people everywhere,” according to event information on the organization’s website.

The plight of families fleeing Afghanistan is not new to the organization – one of the first families it helped was that of a woman who was ostracized for marrying.

The woman, her husband and their two sons arrived from Afghanistan “via a trafficker, who left the family on the streets of Vancouver,” Dyck recalled in a statement issued during Friday’s walk.

“We welcomed them in and the transformation for that mother was amazing, just welcoming and supporting her seemed to make all the difference in who she has become.”

The current displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees – dramatically highlighted by the Taliban’s takeover in August – hit the JHC members, staff and volunteers hard, Dyck said.

READ MORE: Canada’s last military flight leaves Kabul before deadly twin bombings rock airport

He said Monday the issue becomes deeply personal when “it’s no longer just something you’re seeing on the news.”

“These are people you know, people who have sisters and mothers and children and families over there who are in hiding, running.”

Hearing a woman sob as she begged for help to get her three sisters out of hiding and into safety, “you can’t help but become deeply engaged in that.”

Dyck said staff and volunteers have taken on direct advocacy for families at high risk, through the support of an MP and the federal government, and have have advocated for dozens of families who they “hope and pray” to see arrive to safety.

He acknowledges Journey Home Community’s efforts can’t help all those who need it. At the same time, what they do accomplish does make a difference.

“It matters to them, and you get that time after time after time,” he said of the families that receive help.

“You look for any way you can, even if it’s a little crumb here or there. It’s something.”

In Friday’s statement, Dyck described the walk as one of remembering in solidarity “the displaced people 80 million plus who have had to leave their homes for significant reasons.”

“This walk is making a public statement of their plight as we remember that they are trekking huge distances to get to safety.”

For more information about Journey Home Community, visit
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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