Birmingham Partnership Walk raises money, aims to increase awareness of global poverty (photos)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - When people talk of taking steps to end poverty, it usually isn't literal.

More than 2,200 people walked and ran Sunday at Railroad Park to raise money for impoverished countries and increase awareness of poverty and the organizations that work to alleviate it.

The annual Birmingham Partnership Walk is an initiative of Aga Khan Foundation USA, which holds similar walks in 10 U.S. cities each year.

All proceeds go directly to the foundation's projects. Birmingham residents have shown great generosity, with both time and money, over the past few years, said Salima Mulji, a volunteer organizer based in Birmingham.

Last year's walk raised more than $300,000, and this year's event also raised $300,000, matching organizers' goals, she said.

As a native of southeast Asia, volunteering with AKF is Mulji's way of giving back to people who have not enjoyed the advantages of someone growing up in the U.S.

"The idea behind AKF is that we all live in a global village," she said. "Our responsibility is to think of ourselves as residents of that global community."

The all-day event included a 5K run, a 1K youth fun run, a 100-yard dash and a 3K family walk. Throughout the day, various groups took the stage to entertain the crowd. Entertainment included marching bands from two local high schools, the Bumpus Middle School show choir and a group of seniors performing traditional songs from southeast Asia.

A group of Homewood Middle School students manned the interactive exhibits at the Village in Action, where they taught visitors about topics ranging from a "traveling kindergarten" to microforestry.

Eliza Angelo, a sixth-grader at Homewood Middle, said visitors to the village ranged from small children to city dignitaries who were speaking at the event.

"Before we put together our presentation, I had no idea what microforestry was, and now I'm teaching other people about it," she said. "We had to think about what would make people attracted to our booths."

Walk participants help communities in the most impoverished regions of Africa and Asia to create long-term solutions to escape from poverty.

AKF USA, established in 1981, is a nonprofit international development organization that focuses on health, education, business and agriculture, along with large-scale infrastructure development.

The foundation focuses its efforts on Africa and central Asia, where they work with local communities to implement initiatives for residents to help themselves out of poverty, said Geraldine Sicola, the director of communication and resource development for AKF USA.

"Through events like the walks, we're providing a bridge for people here who care about their brothers and sisters elsewhere," Sicola said.

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