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Harbourside walk to celebrate World Refugee Day in Sydney

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Sydneysiders will walk together with their neighbours from refugee backgrounds to commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20.

The harbourside event, which starts in Pirrama Park, Pyrmont, aims to build stronger bonds as locals walk and talk with those who have more recently found a new home and safety in Australia.

For Dor Akech Achiek, the walk is a reminder of a much longer and more difficult journey already taken.

As a six-year-old boy, Dor walked with his mother and siblings from South Sudan through Uganda and on to Kenya for almost three months.

“My four-year-old sister had no choice but to trek like the rest of us, we were all taking turns carrying her – ‘African style’ – on our shoulders so that she wouldn’t completely tire out,” Dor remembers.

After being received by the UN Refugee Agency, they were resettled in Australia, where Dor is now a Settlement Services Manager with Settlement Services International.

The event has been organised by local startup OneStep Walks, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with support from Settlement Services International and Australia for UNHCR.

The walk will contribute an estimated million steps to UNHCR’s Step With Refugees campaign, a worldwide movement building understanding of people forced to flee their homes, and solidarity with those displaced. There will be refugee dancers, small refugee businesses and food available from Syria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Cambodia and elsewhere.

Ed Yousef, a young medical science graduate and business owner, also knows firsthand the transition from displacement to belonging in a new community. With the support of SSI’s Ignite® small business initiative, he’s established a thriving catering company, and will bring his pop-up restaurant Syriana Traditional Cuisine to the event. The restaurant’s cauliflower dish has been such a hit it goes through 70 to 100 kilograms of the vegetable each weekend.

“Food brings people together; it unites us,” says Yousef. “It is important for communities to have the opportunity to engage, make contact and thrive so that we can improve our society together.”

OneStep Walks has been organising events in Sydney since 2017, connecting people as they take steps together in some of the city’s most scenic locations. “It’s been so encouraging to see Sydneysiders sign up and enjoy our monthly walks together with refugees and come back time and time again,” says Sandra Carvajal, Co-Founder of OneStep Walks. “We’re grateful to the UN Refugee Agency and the City of Sydney for their support in hosting the largest OneStep walk to date.”

Each year on and around 20 June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees marks this global moment not only reflecting on the challenges of global displacement, but also celebrating refugees’ remarkable resilience and contributions, and the welcome provided to them by communities all around the world. In Sydney, there is plenty to celebrate.

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