CHICAGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 27, 2004--Approximately 5,500 people participated in the Chicago Partnership Walk yesterday at Soldier Field to show their support for international cooperation and for ending poverty around the world. Over $425,000 was raised in Chicago through this event. Partnership Walk is an initiative of Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. (AKF USA) and is organized by its network of volunteers in communities across the United States. Partnership Walk has been held since 1995 in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles. The aim of the Walk is to raise public awareness and funds to help communities in some of the poorest areas of Africa and Asia create long-term solutions to poverty.
Partnership Walk also took place yesterday in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles. Approximately 30,000 people participated nationally with an expected $3.1 million raised. One hundred percent of the funds raised at the Partnership Walk go directly to the projects supported by the Foundation. The cost of organizing the Walk is completely underwritten by AKF USA and in-kind contributors. No funds are used for administrative costs.
High-profile dignitaries participated in the opening ceremonies at the Chicago Partnership Walk. Dr. Howard Cohen, Chancellor of Purdue University in his keynote address at the opening ceremonies said, "I want to express my thanks and admiration to the Aga Khan Foundation USA for sponsoring today's walk and for its commitment to ending poverty and to doing it through education." Other distinguished guests included Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, and George Van Dusen, Mayor of Skokie. Proclamations were received from Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley declaring September 26, 2004 as Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. Partnership Walk Day.
Serving as masters of ceremonies was Karen Jordan, News Anchor for ABC's WLS-TV; Bill Moller, News Anchor for CLTV News 9; Mary Ann Ahern, News Anchor for NBC 5's WMAQ TV; and Judie Garcia, News Anchor for WGN TV Channel 9 news. Following the Walk and a picnic lunch, there was a program of entertainment celebrating world cultures. The diverse range of musical and dance performances included Hip Hop Connexion, Chicago Djembe Project and the Jesse White Tumblers, among others.
At the Village in Action, participants of all ages had an opportunity to engage in interactive activities and learn how people in developing countries create solutions to overcome the challenges of low income, poor health conditions and limited educational opportunities. Through displays and hands-on demonstrations, the Village in Action showcased the positive results that are achieved through the Foundation's community-based, self-help development programs in Africa and Asia. Participants were offered the opportunity to see simulations on how AKF development projects work, sit in a mock classroom and send postcards to students in developing countries. Volunteers from the Chicago metropolitan area researched, planned, designed and created the exhibits. Through this process, they gained an understanding of global citizenship.
This year's Partnership Walk theme, "Quality Education for All," highlighted education as a critical ingredient in ending poverty as well as a lifeline to pull families out of poverty. The Foundation's many education projects foster long-term stability in countries such as Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan and Tajikistan and place special emphasis on ensuring that girls, the very poor and geographically remote populations have access to quality education. For example, it trains women teachers in Afghanistan so more girls will attend school. In poor areas of East Africa and Pakistan, the Foundation has made great strides in helping preschoolers get a healthy start through early childhood development programs that build a strong foundation for life-long learning.
The Foundation works in partnership with other institutions dedicated to international development such as the U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. State Department, the World Bank as well as private foundations and corporations.
AKF USA is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network, a family of private international non-denominational agencies working to improve the living conditions and opportunities for people in specific regions of the developing world. The overarching goal of the Network's programs is to help poor communities achieve a level of self-reliance whereby they are able to plan their own futures. With a focus on improving health, education and the standard of living in some of the poorest communities in Africa and Asia, the Foundation seeks sustainable solutions to long-term problems of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and ill health, with specific emphasis on the needs of rural communities in mountainous, coastal and resource-poor areas. The Foundation is presently engaged in 140 programs in 16 countries. The geographic focus of its development projects is in East Africa and South and Central Asia. Aga Khan Foundation was established in Geneva, Switzerland in 1967 by its Chairman, His Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, who have a long tradition of philanthropy, volunteerism, self-help, education and social welfare.