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On Sunday June 28, 2009, a bright yellow flock of Amnesty volunteers walked a message through Berlin: Support us in our demand to Nigerian authorities for the release of Patrick Okoroafor from prison!
Dozens of walkers included Patrick's brother Henry, who is an Amnesty member in Ingolstadt. 10 miles, 16 kilometres of walking together, provided all of us good opportunity to get a personal picture of Patrick's 14-year ordeal, the consequences of his imprisonment on his family, and his hopes for life after release - whenever it comes. Henry, of course, spoke to many passers-by along the route, as did all the walkers.
Our starting point was, as always, the hospitable Café Dollinger at Stuttgarter Platz. Sponsorships handed in, last cups of coffee drunk, T-shirts pulled on, placards fixed, information flyers and Human Rights knots distributed and the annual group picture taken. Off we went, through the gardens of Charlottenburg Palace and along the Spree. After the half-way stop at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, we moved past the Reichstag, through the Brandenburg Gate, and across Checkpoint Charlie for the last stretch along Landwehrkanal to our friendly goal pub, Murray's Irish Bar in Kreuzberg.
Couldn't we have achieved attention with less physical effort? At a stand in a pedestrian zone, or through an evening event, a lecture perhaps? We don't think so. Can there be better advertisement for an important cause than many people in motion? Moving at a speed that allows us to pass out leaflets, answer questions, have conversations? Particularly on a summer Sunday, when most passers-by allow themselves to be curious, when the leisure and tourist route along Spree and Landwehrkanal is populated, and Unter den Linden is full of others out for a gentle stroll.
The walk has become a traditional event for Group 1312 - who organise it - and for many other Berlin members, and a wonderful opportunity for exchanging ideas, making plans and getting to know other Amnesty members. And, of course, it raises money for Amnesty. 1312, the English-speaking, fundraising-savvy group, has taken a leading role in tapping the financial possibilities of walking for money. Before the walk, sponsors are wooed by members, pay-by-mile arrangements made - and a respectable sum is walked into the account of 1312 or whichever group receives the sponsorship money.
If you missed this year's walk, be sure to come along in 2010: Everyone is welcome!