By Niel de Jong
There are 68.5 million refugees around the world. Running from human conflicts or from natural disasters. Often they do not get to decide when they start running, how far they go, or for how long. And, of course, they often lack basic human needs, such as clean water, food, and shelter. For this reason, once a year, the Night of the Refugees is organized in the Netherlands. Volunteers walk for 40 kilometers, starting at midnight. And they ask sponsors to donate money for their efforts.
This year a team of ten: six members of the Water Youth Network (WYN) and four members of family and friends, decided to participate! After a brief call in our WYN group and social networks, we started a team ‘Youth for Water’ with much enthusiasm. Together, we asked more friends, family, and colleagues for donations. And through our networks, we campaigned together a good amount to motivate ourselves for.
On the 15th of July, the night was finally there. We got together from different Dutch cities, and around 23:00 we met at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam. Together with about 1000 other participants, we warmed up under the guidance of a fitness instructor. We made a quick team photo. And at midnight, now guided by a steel drum band, we started our walking adventure.
The first two hours of the walk we crossed different parts of Amsterdam. Sometimes night parties could be heard in the distance, but for the largest parts, we crossed silent neighborhoods with more and more green. Those first hours, I mainly remember a fight against sleep in my mind, while my pace was good and steady. I also soon discovered that the best remedy against the sleep was to have long conversations. And so, the walk provided a great opportunity to catch up with each other.
After a short break at the clubhouse of a local football club, we officially left the city. A long stretch across dark fields subsequently brought us to a small village called Broek in Waterland, where the shadow of a church was slowly creeping up. Five days before solstice the sun was already coming up at 4 AM! We then walked for three hours through the fields with more and more birds and insects accompanying our strides. And at 7 AM, accompanied by increasingly more lactic acids, the small fisherman village of Durgerdam showed up at the horizon.
With different funny walks, we now re-entered Amsterdam for the last 10 km. Here and there, people were already sitting or lying on the side, trying to get some movement back in their legs. Our conversations went quieter. At this time, also our paces started to vary. But nonetheless, I think we did a great job staying together. 500 meters for the finish the team waited up. And, at 10:20 AM, we managed to cross the finish line together as a team. Showing both endurance and a great team spirit.
I had a great experience and I am very happy with this successful team. Also, I am very proud of our sponsoring efforts and our sponsors, with whose help we were able to collect 1895 euro! I believe that is a beautiful amount to support refugees around the world that are much less prepared than us!