Let’s Create a World of Peace and Happiness Together

Earth is the precious home for 8 billion people. However, there are no longer any places untouched by the impacts of climate change. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre [IDMC], 32.6 million people worldwide lost their homes due to disasters such as floods, storms, and droughts in 2022 alone. In 2020, the International Think Tank Institute for Economic and Peace [IEP] predicted that 1.2 billion climate refugees would emerge over the next 30 years.

On May 26, an event was held to help global neighbors suffering from climate disasters and to protect the green earth. The 26th New Life Family Walkathon, hosted by the Intl. WeLoveU Foundation (hereinafter referred to as WeLoveU), took place at Incheon Cheongna Lake Park. Approx. 5,000 people, including WeLoveU members from Incheon and northern Gyeonggi Province, participated to share love with neighbors beyond borders. Honorary Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah, Chairman of the Board Kim Joong-rak, and diplomatic representatives and their families from 12 countries, including the Ambassadors of Kazakhstan and Ecuador to Korea, also attended the event.
Many distinguished guests participated in the event, including the Korea Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect President Yi Bae-keun, actor Kim Seong-hwan, singers Yun Tae-gyu and Lee Seung-hun. The event was supported by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Seoul Metropolitan Municipality, the Korean NPO Alliance for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Korea Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, and Incheon Sejong General Hospital.

On the day of the event, WeLoveU members began arriving at Cheongna Lake Park early in the morning. The cool, cloudy weather, combined with the members’ vibrant appearance in light green T-shirts reminiscent of May’s foliage, added vitality to the tranquil holiday morning as they gathered in small groups.

“Hello, thank you! We love you!”

At 11 a.m., the opening ceremony began with a cheerful greeting from Announcer Kim Byung-chan. The first performance was by the New Life Children’s Choir. The children’s lively stage presence, with even their mistakes appearing endearing, brought wide smiles to the faces of the participants.

Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah, in her opening address, emphasized the event’s purpose and vision: “Through the 26th Walkathon, we aim to support victims of disasters both domestically and internationally, helping them recover their daily lives. Additionally, we seek to expand international understanding of these victims, thereby promoting multifaceted support. We aim to raise awareness of climate crisis and enhance responses such as tree planting, encouraging broad participation from individuals and society to achieve environmental welfare.” She further urged, “Even after this Walkathon, let’s continue to show interest, support, and encouragement to disaster-affected families around the world.” She emphasized solidarity for a better future for humanity, stating, “By helping each other and showing concern and support, the global village can become a world of peace and happiness.”

Kazakhstan Ambassador to Korea, H.E. Nurgali Arystanov, expressed gratitude to WeLoveU for its diverse international welfare activities, noting, “Even in today’s highly developed world, many people face difficulties.” He added, “Walking is an excellent exercise that keeps our bodies and minds healthy and strengthens our bonds of friendship. Let’s enjoy walking together,” in his congratulatory speech.

Following the screening of congratulatory video messages from various dignitaries, a donation presentation ceremony took place. Through the 26th Walkathon, WeLoveU aims to support 10 countries affected by climate disasters, including Peru, Ecuador, the Philippines, and Kenya, as well as 5 island countries facing climate crises, such as the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and Cape Verde. Domestically, WeLoveU will aid 100 households vulnerable to climate change in the metropolitan area. Additionally, it will extend its generosity to war refugees and disaster victims in 24 countries, including Ukraine, Rwanda, Bangladesh, DR Congo, Jordan, and Iraq, with a total of 870 million KRW (approx. 633,490 USD) in donations. Separately, they will also donate 10 million KRW (approx. 7,280 USD) for medical expenses to support children in Mongolia suffering from hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

The members, who had gathered their contributions with the hope of providing strength and courage to families in need around the world, performed warm-up exercises before embarking on the main event. Amidst the powerful music of a marching band, Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah declared the start of the walkathon, and participants joyfully began their walk along the designated course.

Cheongna Lake Park was beautifully decorated with fresh greenery and colorful roses in full bloom. The light green waves created by the participants, led by Chairwoman Zahng Gil-jah, continued along the promenade. As they walked, they enjoyed the breathtaking scenery of the lake and flowers under the clear sky, matching their strides with one another. Amidst the scent of flowers carried by the fresh spring breeze, the innocent laughter of children, who were delightedly watching soap bubbles floating in the air, spread around. At the midpoint of the walking course, university student members engaged in an environmental campaign, holding placards with messages promoting environmental conservation.

At the square, which served as both the starting and ending point of the walking course, various side events focusing on recycling and environmental friendliness were organized to attract participants’ attention, including a panel exhibition introducing the WeLoveU’s Mom’s Garden Project. After completing the walk, members visited different booths where they could engage in eco-friendly activities such as making keychains from recycled socks and sea glass, creating cinnamon air fresheners, and using pedal-powered bicycles to make cotton candy. Through these experiences, they pledged to adopt eco-friendly practices in their daily lives, such as resource recycling and energy conservation, to address climate change.

Orlin Manuel Madrid Cepeda, Charge d’Affaires at the Ecuadorian Embassy, expressed his gratitude and said, “In Ecuador, there are many people in need, including flood victims, and we are receiving great help through donations from the Intl. WeLoveU Foundation. It helps people understand and help their neighbors suffering from poverty and disaster.”
Juan Manuel Medina, Deputy Head of Mission at the Costa Rican Embassy, said, “Our country is also making efforts to cooperate with international organizations in preparation for the recent climate crisis. I’m happy to participate in an event that helps global family during these times. I think it is a beneficial activity that naturally reminds youth of climate change and environmental issues.” Park Wi-kwang, Director of the Incheon Volunteer Center, said, “The climate crisis is an urgent challenge that confronts all of us right now. At a time when national attention is needed, events like this will lead to the participation of many people and create a world where ‘we,’ not just ‘me,’ live together.”

WeLoveU member Ahn Hyo-min, who came with her 9-year-old daughter, said, “I explained the purpose of the walkathon to my child and went through various experiences together. I think my child learned more deeply about the difficulties faced by families around the world.” WeLoveU couple members Kim Jae-sik and Lee Hye-kyung (50s, Incheon) said, “If we didn’t have this opportunity, we wouldn’t know much about what’s happening on the other side of the world. It’s meaningful to be able to help the world through a small act like walking. We appreciate the opportunity to volunteer and refresh ourselves as well.”

As the event ended, raindrops began to fall from the sky. Looking at the spring rain, the members hoped that the steps they took together today would convey hope like a refreshing rain to our neighbors around the world.