Why Jim and Pola consciously chose the central event

22 May 2023 11:30

Jim and Pola are part of '1/79', one of the teams that have been walking along for the Refugee Walk for many editions. That name is not a random jumble of numbers, but is derived from the fact that 1 in 79 people is currently fleeing violence, war and persecution. Every year in June, they review the UN report and update their names. When they first participated, they were still called '1/113'. This evolution is at once sad and motivating. Because as more and more people flee, defending the rights of refugees becomes simultaneously more urgent.

Jim and Pola are trained to do big walks and so participate in the 40km every year without fail. In corona times, they were happy to have the option to map out their own route in their own region. Yet now they prefer to step along in the central event.

"You can create buzz as well as put Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen on the map"

On the one hand, they feel that the more people in one place show that they are standing up for the same rights together, the more they can attract press and media attention. Indeed, with the Refugee Walk, they are not just about raising money. They also want to show how many people want to reinforce the message of solidarity and human rights. In this way, they hope that their sporting efforts will help strengthen one of the most important objectives of VluchtelingenwerkVlaanderen: putting pressure on policy.

"You feel part of a bigger picture"

Taking part in the Refugee Walk also gives Jim and Pola a thrill. "Look how many people we are here with to defend the same cause. It's incredibly heartwarming to see how many people care about the right to asylum and solidarity with refugees. The sense of togetherness at the central event is huge."

"The city government has to step up aswell"

Moreover, they say, a central event gives a city council a chance to speak out on this crucial social issue. The organising city should stick its neck out, as the mayor of Mechelen, Bart Somers, and the mayor of Leuven, Mohamed Ridouani already did. There is no better way to introduce your city council to the issue and get them excited about becoming a solidarity city too. Talk about putting pressure on policy!


5 tips from Jim and Pola to raise money


Team 1/79 was the team that raised the most money last year. Five tips from Pola and Jim on how to successfully raise funds:

  1. Show that you are one team! Together you stand strong. Introduce your team and let the outside world know why you are taking this action.
  2. Stay true to your own beliefs! Let your network know what you stand for and what you are going for.
  3. Emphasise the usefulness of the action: let your surroundings know what Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen does.
  4. Do not fish in the same pond: Keep track of which team member addresses whom, so you don't overwhelm people in your network with questions.
  5. Keep personal contact with your sponsors: Take time to thank your sponsors at length. Let them know where you stand with your action and what you were able to achieve thanks to them.