Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Teenager inspired to walk in refugees' shoes

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Eloise Wilson from Bethlehem College has walked 60km to raise money for Syrian refugees.
Eloise Wilson from Bethlehem College has walked 60km to raise money for Syrian refugees.

Eloise Wilson has walked 60 kilometres in 24 hours to get some idea of the challenges faced by Syrian refugees.

The Bethlehem College head girl went to a World Vision Youth Conference in Auckland earlier this year and was motivated by what she heard.

"I was inspired by other young people doing incredible things to help World Vision and the refugee crisis. I really wanted to do something a little different that would raise awareness for the crisis. I went home and did a bit more research and found out that walking 60km is the bare minimum these refugees have to walk for safety, food and security. So I thought, 'why don't I do something like that?'"

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The 18-year-old started the walk about 1pm on Tuesday and completed the 60km on by mid afternoon on Wednesday.

She started the walk from Bethlehem College, heading through Otumoetai to Mount Maunganui. From the Mount she walked back home, which was near Tauranga Boys' College. That was the first 30km.

The next morning she got dropped 30km out of Tauranga towards Rotorua and walked back to her school.

Ms Wilson had peers and family members join her on different parts of the journey to keep her company: "They motivated me, having people being really positive pushing me through. I owe them my sanity for that walk."

I really wanted to do something a little different that would raise awareness for the crisis. I went home and did a bit more research and found out that walking 60km is the bare minimum these refugees have to walk for safety, food and security. So I thought, 'why don't I do something like that?'
Eloise Wilson

The Tauranga South resident said she was a little naive as to how hard the walk would be when she first started it.

"I was very optimistic and ready to go. About 20 kilometres in, my body started to experience a bit of pain.

"At that point I was questioning what I had got myself into. But I kept going. The next day was the hardest. By then I had already done 30 kilometres. My joints were killing me. Ten kilometres to go was the worst stage.

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"But I stopped and thought 'I really don't have it that bad'. Compared to the Syrian refugees who have left their homes, who have to carry their possessions, other family members, who don't have a home to go to afterwards I realised I had so much to be thankful for.

"This was a long walk but it is nothing compared to what they go through.

"That pushed me through the really hard kilometres."

By the end of the walk her ankles had swollen up and her feet were bleeding.

Ms Wilson said she admired the courage and strength the refugees would have to muster each day.

"Going through it, I definitely have more perspective on how hard the situation is, and I had it easy compared to them.

"It brings an appreciation for what they have to go through," she said.

Ms Wilson said she was also taking part in the 40 Hour Famine this weekend. She has raised $680 and will hopefully reach $1000.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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