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We did it !

August 13th, 2007 by Dunia Othman

It was Saturday morning and the alarm rang at 6am. I’d barely gotten any sleep as I was looking forward to the day ahead. Quickly got changed packed a few (just in case) things and drove out to Devenport. Today was the day we do our “Walk for Iraq” fund raising walk.

We all met at 7am at the Devenport ferry station. It was an early start, but none of us seemed to mind at all. In fact there were much more wide open eyes among us than a group that had just finished a coffee tasting tour (who needs caffeine after all). There were greetings, introductions, T-shirts to grab, names to tick and then we were all herded into a bus that was to drive us to Browns Bay to start our mission.


The atmosphere in the bus was awesome, smiles, giggles and loud laughs. There were about 60 of us; ages ranging from 14 to 40+, of all Iraqi and non Iraqi backgrounds. Everyone was in such high spirits it was an honour being one of them. I asked the organiser Yazen Al Safi how he felt and the smile on his face said it all. He had to turn people down in the end because he couldn’t fit anymore in the bus he had organised. He was truly overwhelmed. “So how did you come up with this?” someone asked. “A friend of mine did it in London and so I told her let’s try to do it worldwide, so we created the website and I organised the one in NZ and another friend caught on to the idea and is organising one in Toronto, Canada” replied Yazen. This goes to show that one person CAN make a difference in this world.

Stepping out of the bus I could see a beautifully sunny day. It was raining yesterday and the forecast said there will be rain this afternoon and tomorrow. But now, this morning the weather was the best we could hope for. It was like God had moved the rain clouds away for us. Actually looking up at the sky I could sense all our proud relies (alive and dead) smiling at us, everything was smiling at us.

It was 7:50am and we took a few group photos and by 8am we were ready to start the walk.

At 8:15 Chris Carter (New Zealand's Minister of Conservation, Minister of Housing, and Minister for Ethnic Affairs and the Labour Member of Parliament for Te Atatu) joined us in the walk for an hour. We went from Browns Bay to Mairangi Bay (and by then Chris had left) to Milford (and to all the girls horror passed by Milford Mall) then hiked from Milford to Takapuna Beach where we stopped for a 30minute break and a bite to eat.

It seemed that the 3hr walk so far was not enough for some enthusiasts. As in any outdoor Iraqi gathering there was someone with a soccer ball and so a few brave souls decided to burn more calories but playing a mini game of soccer.

By 11:50am we were ready to carry on the journey and a decision was made to walk on the road to raise more awareness and try to make up for the lost 3km from Long Bay to Browns Bay. That was a great idea.

As it was a beautiful sunny day there were many people out and about and many showed their support but cheering us on as we walked. The more frequent the car honks were the higher the flags got raised and the higher our spirits lifted.

One of the nicest things that happened was passing by a field where there was a rugby match. They stopped the game and cheered and applauded us and didn’t resume till we passed. The high we were on was indescribable.

We finished at Devenport at around 1:30pm where there were many family members waiting for us and cheering our arrival and success by throwing many lollies at us, the sugar was very welcomed at that point.

Time, of course, for another group photo. Looking a bit more tired than the one at the start but his photo had 60ish faces that looked like that had just accomplished something great. And we did. In our everyday life we forget the people that do not have the privilege of a roof over their head or a meal but today in those 7 hours we didn’t forget. Those 7 hours were dedicated to those people that one day, sooner rather than later, will be able to get back on their feet and stop living in oppression, poverty and fear. And even if our efforts made only 1% of a difference the fact that it made a difference makes it definitely worth it.

It was amazing looking around at peoples faces. This is what Iraq really is… We all came from different backgrounds (Arabs, Kurds, Muslims, and Christians) yet we were one, a united nation like we always were and always will be. And to see our fellow Kiwis, Persians, Egyptians, Palestinians etc. with us made it and even more united nation. A human nation that spoke with one voice; a voice that will leave an everlasting echo in my mind.

I got home late that afternoon, and as I was lying down trying to give my poor legs a break I was unable to wipe the smile of my face; it truly was a day I won’t forget in a long time (if ever).

Before I end this I would like to thank the walkers that shared this experience with me. Thank you for proving to me that there are many others that still care. And I would also like to that my sponsors and everyone else’s sponsors. Without you this wouldn’t have been possible. I thank you on behalf of the brave 60 that did the walk with me, from the organiser and his helpers (that made this the success that it was) from Refugees International for helping their cause, from the child, man or women that your kind donation might make all the difference to and last but not least from me, from the bottom of my heart I thank you. Your contribution in this time where the world seems like a dark place is a bright light that I will not forget.

And finally I, as well as many others, would like to thank Yazen Al Safi, your humble down to earth nature is the true definition of modestly and your willingness to give up so much of your time and effort is a true inspiration to us. I have said this before and I will say it again, I am honoured to have met you. Thank for giving us the opportunity to unite as one and give back to the nation that has made us who we are. We are proud that our paths crossed.


We did it !


Dunia Othman

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