Long walk to support refugees
Refugee advocate Ivor Houston has spent six months trekking 4,000 kilometres across Australia to raise funds for refugees and the displaced.
He trudged more than 5 million steps for a cause he says is close to his heart.
“I would just tell myself, ‘one step at a time’, and now I think anything is possible,” he said.
The 22-year-old reached Bondi Beach recently after his inspirational journey from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
Ivor’s trekking adventure was to raise funds for a volunteer-run refugee centre in his home town in the Blue Mountains.
“There’s some kind of parallel to me walking long distances … but in no way am I anything compared to refugees and asylum seekers because they have families, the elderly, the young, they don’t have good footwear, they don’t have any kind of safety equipment, they don’t have food security,” he said.
“Here I am in a country where I’ve never once felt scared for my life.”
There were difficult points in the trip, including the brutal stretch across the expanse of the Nullarbor Plain with no trees to seek shade from.
Despite the struggles along the way, Ivor never considered giving up.
“The walk is not about me, it’s not about the adventure. I’m just the one moving my feet and being the medium for people to be drawn to the awareness I’m raising,” he said.
Ivor said his plan to bolster funds for the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group (BMRSG) came to him after a refugee family lived with him 18 months ago.
“We’ve lived with them and breathed with them. We’re now family, and they’re supported by Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group,” he said.
“Seeing how much [BMRSG] have supported them emotionally, financially, it’s absolutely ridiculous.”
So far Mr Houston has raised more than $16,790 for the BMRSG, and $7,025 for Act for Peace, smashing his initial goal of $20,000.
“The money will wholeheartedly go to the families and refugees that have fled their country due to persecution or conflict and improve their lives,” he said.
“To have this kind of support really touches me I’m very just thrilled and honoured that I’ve been able to kind of make a bit of an impact.”
Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill said that Ivor had “inspired the entire community”.
“Ivor was able to traverse our country without being shot at without risk of being taken prisoner, and he eloquently compares that to the plight of those escaping tyranny to try and come to freedom,” he said.
The mayor called on the federal government to follow in Mr Houston’s footsteps and show “deep compassion and empathy” for refugees and asylum seekers remaining in offshore detention.
“It’s about time Australia woke up to itself and change the appalling policies of offshore detention, and started showing the same compassion and empathy that Ivor showed.”
“I’m incredibly proud to be Australian because of the experience I had, and for being so safe. I wish we could show the world that this is how we live,” Mr Houston said.