Seven Somali-Canadian men and women have finished an arduous trek on foot from Calgary to Edmonton to raise money for famine relief in East Africa.
The walkers, all cousins, started Friday and completed the nearly 300-kilometre journey Sunday evening at the provincial legislature in Edmonton.
People honked and cheered as the group crossed into the city limits.
"It was amazing," said Yasmin Siad, 23. "We're so happy, we've worked so hard … trying to walk from Calgary to Edmonton. And it was exhausting, and this is definitely a great feeling."
The group hoped to raise $10,000 to donate to Oxfam Canada to help with relief work in drought-stricken East Africa. So far, they've raised $15,000 — including $20 from a driver who was passing by as they entered Edmonton.
"We wanted to honour the thousands of Somalis who are walking every day, miles and miles, to get to the refugee camps in Kenya," Siad said. "So we thought, why don't we try to walk similar distances or maybe even less?
"I read this one article about a Somali woman who walked for 45 days. She had six children with her, and by the time she got to the refugee camps in Kenya, she only had two children left. So that's just devastating."
Several of the walkers continued their daytime fasting as part of the Muslim observance of Ramadan. That made it especially gruelling for them, since they couldn't eat for about 15 hours each day, Siad said.
Fartoon Siad, who fasted while she walked, said said she wanted to understand the hardship of people in her ancestors' homeland first-hand.
"We're not just doing this for Somalia. We know that all human beings suffer.… You know, today Somalia, tomorrow another country," she said. "We're in the year 2011. No one should be suffering from famine."
Take up the task
Edmonton's Guled Hussein said the walk has also enspirited Somali-Canadians in the provincial capital, where the recent killings of several young people have raised concerns about gang violence.
"Somebody has to take a big task," Hussein said. "Step up for Somalia, actually challenge the whole Somalis. Not only people in Edmonton, but through the whole country and also international."
The walkers' arrival was capped by a celebration at the provincial legislature and a guest appearance onstage at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, which wrapped up last night.
The United Nations World Food Program estimates that 11.5 million people in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti and Uganda urgently need food aid and medical supplies. About 2.2 million of those people in Somalia are in regions that international aid workers have been unable to reach, while a further 130,000 Somalis have fled to neighbouring Ethiopia and Kenya.
In the last three months, more than 29,000 children under age five have died in southern Somalia alone.