Lacing up for Walk out of Poverty

Runners on your marks: 16th annual fundraiser for Concern America will be held Saturday.

March 21, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani

Parisa Esfahani's heart swells every time she learns of Orange County residents participating in community programs focused on alleviating poverty.

A three-time participant in Concern America's Walk out of Poverty, Parisa, 18, of Costa Mesa, recalls her mother, who is "very passionate about … everything," frequently raising the topic of impoverished communities.

Eager to broaden "privileged minds and vision," Parisa, then a student at Estancia High School, introduced the initiative to members of her Advanced Placement Spanish class and the National Honor Society. Flanked by 10 like-minded classmates the first year and 20 the next, she contributed $900 per walk.


For her, being aware and generous is "simple."

"I have been very, very fortunate in my life," said Parisa, a freshman at UC Davis." I have had every advantage you can think of in this modern age, and others haven't, and that isn't fair. We are all born into and under different circumstances, and I think it is just chance that I got to be where I am."

Saturday marks the 16th annual Walk Out of Poverty, which is Santa Ana-based Concern America's largest fundraiser. Starting and ending at the Holy Spirit Church in Fountain Valley, guests are invited to walk around the Mile Square Regional Park — five miles total.

Since 1972, the nonprofit has focused on international development and refugee aid in rural areas of concern across Latin America and Africa. Once a year, individuals and groups in Orange County are asked to "grow a global heart."

"This walk gives us an opportunity to reach out to our local neighbors to talk about people we don't see, who are suffering across the world," John Straw, Concern America's executive director, said. "We try to help our community support work in other countries, to influence how we in this country are involved with people who for various reasons we're connected to, whether it's because we're human beings or because of our policies or the food we eat."

The program also spotlights communities where people walk five miles or more daily to collect water and food and work in fields, allowing Concern America to walk in solidarity with them.

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