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Zoe is trekking Peru for refugees

Zoe is trekking Peru for refugees

Zoe HaleSydney-based education editor Zoe Hale is currently trekking Peru to raise funds for refugee relief. She tells how she prepared for the high altitude challenge and how she went about raising her first $5000.

Why do you think it’s important to support refugees around the world?

Refugees are people who are fleeing persecution and war, and it is sheer luck of circumstance that I was born in a country where this doesn't happen to me. My house has never been destroyed. My family has never been threatened or feared for their life. I don't have to worry about whether my parents will be murdered because of their religion or whether a bomb tear will through my school or workplace. Refugees experience all these things and more.

What motivated you to take the next step and fundraise for refugees in your community?

I saw this as an opportunity to take my passion beyond social media rants. Many of us can get frustrated at certain issues and take to social media to vent, and that's fine, except it often doesn't change anything. By fundraising for refugees I saw that I could do something that would make an actual difference to refugees in need.

How did you raise funds in the lead-up to the trek?

I began by announcing through my networks — social media, my church, friends and family — that I was fundraising for UNHCR. The initial response was overwhelming. Friends said they saw my appeal as a genuine plea because I have long campaigned for justice in this area.

My second step was to organise a fundraising event. I arranged a screening of The Good Lie, a heart-warming film with Reese Witherspoon based on the Lost Boys of Sudan. I asked a few friends who are chefs and bakers to bring something for supper, and I organised a venue at a discounted price through friends who run an art centre near the city.

How have you prepared yourself for trekking at high altitudes?

I hadn’t done much hiking before, so undertaking a trek at around 4000 metres altitude was a bit daunting, I had to make sure I had all the relevant equipment like trekking poles, a backpack, and boots. Luckily, I have a lot of very lovely friends who love hiking who were willing to loan me their equipment while I trained and go on the hike. I paired together with a few of those same friends to go on a practice walk most weekends, gradually building up my fitness and getting used to wearing and using my equipment. It's been a challenge but I'm really glad I'm doing it!

What would you say to others about fundraising for refugees with Team UNHCR?

Supporting Australia for UNHCR is a practical thing we can do to help refugees. Even if you can’t change policies or stop the bombing of schools, you can give a refugee family food to eat and shelter over their heads. Your support changes lives and brings hope to the hopeless. It fights the injustice one person at a time.