Diaspora groups from across Melbourne came together to raise nearly $11,000 at a walkathon to support Rohingya refugees on Saturday 15 September.

Organised by the Vietnamese Community Australia – Victoria (VCA-Vic), the Walk for Humanity began and ended at a global village, set up for the day in Carlton’s Princes Park. Community leaders from Vietnamese, Rohingya, Burmese, Ethiopian and Jewish groups shared food and stories from their cultures.

People from grandparents to small children walked together to raise money and show their support, before returning to the global village to enjoy spring rolls, curries, Ethiopian coffee, rice flour donuts and sweets.
Many participants came from refugee backgrounds themselves, and spoke about how they identified with the plight of the Rohingya.

Ngun Awr Thang, from Myanmar’s Chin minority, came to Australia as refugee himself. He said he and his family wanted to support Rohingya refugees because of their shared background. “We’re from the same country, so we want to help each other,” he said.

Raphael Mengem said he was there to support displaced Rohingya, because a member of the Jewish community he identified with a history of displacement. “Their struggle is our struggle,” he said.

The walkathon brings the total amount raised this year by the VCA-Vic for this emergency to more than $100,000.

Some 720,000 Rohingya refugees are currently sheltering in Bangladesh after fleeing outbreaks of extreme violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in August last year. Tens of thousands of these refugees are living in flimsy shelters, at risk of landslides and flooding in the monsoon season.

Funds raised by VCA-Vic will go to Australia for UNHCR to support vital emergency relief efforts, such as shelter to withstand the monsoon, safe water, medicine and other life-saving supplies.

Vice President of VCA-Vic Andrew Do said: “Many people in the Vietnamese community have first-hand knowledge of what it means to be a refugee. Many of us would not be here today without the protection and assistance the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) offered us and our families in the 1970s and 80s.”

National Director of Australia for UNHCR Naomi Steer said: “It’s absolutely inspiring to see the drive and generosity of the Vietnamese community and other diaspora groups reaching out to others caught in tragic circumstances.

“The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) relies almost entirely on voluntary contributions so community support like this is crucial.”

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