Penwith students walk the St Michael’s Way in solidarity with refugees.

Inspired by the current United Nations’ campaign, which is “calling on people all over the world to cover the distance travelled each year by refugees,” several lecturers from Penwith College have asked their students to join them to walk the St Michael’s Way to consider what it might be like for people who have to walk many miles, young and old, and don’t have the choice.

As part of International Refugee Week, which took place in June, this campaign asks people to walk or run some kilometres and then to add their total to the tally on the United Nations Website (#stepwithrefugees) This pilgrimage route over the westernmost reaches of the UK will take the group from Lelant, around to Carbis Bay then up over the peninsula and past Trencrom before descending to Mounts Bay and, finally, St Michael’s Mount.

Dr. Vanessa Hager, lecturer at the college and the person who sparked the event, was particularly touched by an article which documented the footwear of refugees – photos of worn-out flip flops and other similarly inappropriate shoes for walking hundreds of miles in. “We will have the comfort of good footwear, food, water and the knowledge that we have a safe home to go to at the end of the day, but 20km in one day should be sufficient to make our feet ache and give us time to think about what it might be like for those who have no such luxury and no choice,” she stated prior to the event.

“We aim to make this an educational day, and as we walk we will reflect on the current global refugee situation and the history of refugee migration to our country,” added Helen Wright, fellow lecturer. “We shall even have a little think about migration in general and consider the many thousands of Cornish ‘Cousin Jacks’ who were obliged to leave Cornwall in the late 19th century, at the end of the mining boom, to seek better lives elsewhere. Also, no doubt, we will enjoy a beautiful walk in the stunning, safe land we are so lucky to call home.”

After the walk, Frank Adams, who studies Business, Photography and Drama, said, “It was an amazing experience and it opened my eyes to the world that refugees have to live in today.”

Fellow student, Susie Long, added that “It was inspiring because the walk was really hard for us and yet it was only a fraction of what refugees may have to walk. It made me realise how privileged we really are and how much more we could do in society to improve the lot of refugees.”

This theme was continued by Elsa Rainbow, who studies Biology, Chemistry and English, and who also observed the stark contrast between out walk and theirs, saying “Really we were pampered. Our feet hurt, that’s all, and they would have to just deal with that. Refugees have to keep walking or they die.”

The group has created a specific crowdfunding page, which links directly to the UN fundraiser for refugees, and would welcome donations from the public.

After the walk, as they poured onto Marazion beach, the students totted up that they had walked over 700km between them, which will be added to the total on the United Nations website, currently standing at over 5 million kilometres. Impressive for Penwith College students and those other people doing similar events around the globe, but still a mere fraction of the 2 billion kilometres walked annually by the world’s refugees.