By Ali Sirois
Nine-year-old Aiden Ospina, from Brampton, Ontario, recently decided that he wanted to help more people around the world — and his first step was to participate in Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Canada’s Walk Without Borders 2015 Challenge.
The inspiration to raise funds by walking in solidarity with MSF patients came from Aiden’s grandmother, who first told him about MSF’s lifesaving emergency medical work. When Aiden decided to learn more about the organization, he read the story of Angelina and Gatluok, a mother and son from South Sudan who had to make a long and difficult journey in search of help. When fighting in South Sudan’s ongoing civil war broke out near their home village, Angelina and two-year-old Gatluok fled for their lives, taking shelter in the nearby bush. With no clean water or food, Gatluok soon became extremely ill and malnourished, and Angelina eventually had to carry her tiny son for many hours through difficult and dangerous terrain to find medical care at a nearby MSF clinic.
Fortunately, doctors there were able to bring Gatluok back to health, but the story made an impact on Aiden. “I didn’t think it was good that people had to go through things like that,” he recalls. So he decided to sign up for the Walk Without Borders Challenge in order to raise money for MSF’s work in places like South Sudan — and he chose Angelina and Gatluok as the MSF patients he would walk in solidarity with.
'I thought it would be helpful for the people of the world'
And so, for a month last fall, Aiden wore a pedometer every day. He played sports in the yard at Glendale Public School in Brampton, and walked wherever he could, until he eventually reached an impressive total distance of 240 kilometres. “I really liked walking and telling people about Walk Without Borders, and I thought it would be fun and helpful for the people of the world,” he says.
While he enjoyed walking in order to help people, Aiden did find some parts of the Challenge more difficult than others. “I didn’t like asking people for money,” he says. However with some help and encouragement from his family members, Aiden surpassed his fundraising goal and raised a total of $600.
When asked if he ever got tired while walking 240 kilometres, Aiden offers a thoughtful reply: “No,” he says, “but that’s probably because I drink a lot of milk.”
The story of Angelina and Gatluok (seen on the right), in which the mother and son had to walk many miles to find lifesaving care amid the ongoing civil conflict in South Sudan, helped inspire Aiden's 240-kilometre result in the Walk Without Borders Challenge last fall. "I didn’t think it was good that people had to go through things like that,” he says.