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40 Hours for 40 Million: An Interview with Heather Bartholomew

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40 Hours for 40 Million: An Interview with Heather Bartholomew

Heather Bartholomew walked 40 hours between July and August 2018 and raised over $2,000 for freedom!

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In the summer of 2018, IJM Canada launched our very first Just Move campaign, where Canadians coast to coast joined us by getting active and walking, running, biking, or hiking for the end of slavery.

Heather Bartholomew walked 40 hours between July and August and raised over $2,000 for freedom! We recently had the opportunity to chat with Heather and learned why she is passionate about issues of justice and how she was able to Just Move.

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Tell us a bit about yourself (whatever you’re comfortable sharing, for example, where you’re from, what you do, your family, etc).

I love nature – I love the wind, the sky, the trees, the grass, flowers, water, rivers and waves.

London’s been our home for the last 24 years. My husband and my mom are both from the Prairies, and my dad is from the East Coast. I grew up in Toronto and then moved to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island for high school. I’ve lived in Quebec, Switzerland, Halifax, Ottawa and Kingston. And we have family across the country – from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to B.C.

I love the richness of our vast country and of having lived in these different places. Our children pretty much learned their Canadian geography by visiting relatives and from summer road trips. We have four very interesting and great adult children. They have taught and teach me so much.

I love learning, travelling, hiking, good food, and laughing. I love music-especially the violin and listening to my family singing together in the kitchen or anywhere! I love spending time alone and I also love spending time with our family and with friends.

I started nursing 34 years ago this summer and have worked in a number of different settings including palliative care, family practice, the multi-organ transplant unit in London ON and most recently, the Pediatric Medical Day Unit at the Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario. Many times in my career people have said, “I couldn’t do what you do,” but I know I couldn’t do what a lot of people do either! What has helped me in my work is my conviction that I feel deeply that it is a privilege to be with people when they are in such positions of vulnerability. If by some way, I can ease their suffering through my presence, kindness, my skills, and the advocacy I bring, I consider that a privilege.

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How did you find out about IJM and why are you passionate about issues of injustice?

I’ll start with why I am passionate about issues of justice. Both my mother and my father taught me that all people are to be respected and that each person’s work is valuable and contributes to the whole. They were kind, thoughtful, and caring people and had just as much appreciation for the person who does the important job of cleaning as they did for management. My father who later became the Chief of Police in Charlottetown lived by this. So, did my mother.

My mom used to say, “Even the Queen puts on her stockings one leg at a time.” In other words, we may have very different roles in the world, but at our core as human beings, we are all the same. We all have feelings, thoughts, and dreams whatever class, race, or part of the world we come from. It’s because of this outlook that I find it so hard to grasp how any person or group of people can think poverty or discrimination or injustice is somehow easier for others than it would be for themselves. How can we think that other parents don’t love and care for and worry about and have dreams for their children the same way we do? That somehow, being on the receiving end of injustice doesn’t affect others as it would us? I really find this hard to understand but it is a sad reality.

School, reading history, and life experiences have all helped to expand my awareness of injustice-its various forms, individual expressions, and its systemic nature.

As a young mom, facing my own little challenges of motherhood, I thought about the challenges that so many other mothers feel in raising their families. I also wanted to raise our children with a sensitivity to the reality and circumstances faced by many in the world. But I felt very powerless in addressing these issues and the systems that keep the issues in place…issues of human trafficking and slavery and oppression of the poor, particularly women and children. That was when I began looking for who was doing this kind of work.

"To ignore someone else’s suffering does something to us that is not good."

I found IJM more than a decade ago by searching online who in Canada was doing something about human trafficking and justice issues, and IJM popped up on the screen. And then I read that the Canadian head office was right here in London ON. I was thrilled. As an individual I could care and be concerned, but I personally don’t have the skills to do what IJM is doing. I was thrilled to think that here was an organization that had the skills and the personnel to not only directly help individuals and families in a way that I could not, but here was an organization that was also addressing these issues at a systemic level. I also really value IJM’s holistic approach that includes aftercare. For me, that was hugely important. I am so thankful I can support this work through regular financial giving and prayer.

I’d like to circle back to why I am passionate about issues of justice and addressing violence and disempowerment. It’s because I really do believe we are connected to one another as human beings. That is a core belief. To ignore someone else’s suffering does something to us that is not good. To stand with others and their suffering, that’s an integral part of being human. And it’s difficult. I feel I’m only a little way down that road, but I want to keep going. I believe we’re called to enter into and share in the suffering of humanity. I don’t believe we can follow Jesus and not be led down this path.

We have two posters in our home from Ten Thousand Villages that resonate with me. They are “How to Build Community” and “How to Build Global Community.” The last line of both of those posters says, “Know that no one is silent, though many are not heard. Work to change this.” For me, IJM gives me a way to do this. It’s a way I can help voices of the unheard be heard. That’s why I so appreciate what IJM is doing.

What is your greater vision for the world?

It would be the awareness that we really are all connected and part of the same human family… and that compassion and solidarity with others’ suffering would flow out of that awareness. I would like to see the systems that oppress being dismantled, and for us to begin to ask individually and collectively with regard to any decision, “Who benefits from this decision? Who stands to lose?” (Melinda Gates calls us to ask these questions in her book, “The Moment of Lift”) My vision is also that those of us who call ourselves Christians would “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” It’s a daily challenge for me because I think, “How much of my day addresses this?” I really feel that these issues cross all faiths, and my desire is that we would all live with compassion and awareness and connection.

How did you get involved in Just Move last year?

Perhaps I should say why I got involved in Just Move last summer. I had been feeling that I wanted to be more involved in IJM’s work so when I read about the campaign last summer, I felt that I wanted and needed to take action even though I don’t like fundraising. There may be the odd person that does, but I’m not one of them. However, I’m very passionate about people knowing about justice issues and advocating for others, so this was a way I could raise awareness of IJM’s work. That was helpful for me in participating. And I was very touched by the generosity of people who responded to giving to the work of IJM.

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Are you much of an athlete? Is this something you had done before?

No and no, but I didn’t want to let that stop me. I thought, “I can walk” and I set a goal of walking 40 hours over July and August to represent 1 hour per million people enslaved. Originally what I wanted to do was walk a minute per enslaved person. I did the math and that worked out to 76.1 years. Isn’t that incredible and so sobering? Then I thought, “What if I walked one second per person?” Even that worked out to 1.27 years, and that’s walking 24 hours every day. The sheer numbers and the magnitude of the problem are staggering... So, then I decided I would walk one hour per million people over the summer - linking the number of hours walked with the estimated 40 million enslaved. The WHY and then breaking it down like that (40 hours for 40 million) made it helpful and meaningful to me.

I also invited anyone who wanted to join me someday walking, to do so…they could just let me know. My family and I were in many different locations last summer so walking for an hour for me was doable most days. Spreading the 40 hours over the 2 months gave me some margin and allowed for times when I couldn’t walk. I also liked that this made me very aware daily of my freedom of movement and of the people I was walking for.

What is the biggest challenge you found in fundraising and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge was technology…even setting up the account, remembering passwords – that’s all a big mental barrier for me but I knew if I wanted to participate, I had to figure out how to use the software that IJM was using. And then the other thing I realized is that I’m actually a much more private person than I thought realized. I had a Facebook account but wasn’t active on it, and I had never posted anything on Facebook. My friend helped me get signed up with the campaign, but I was part way through the summer and I had been walking, but I still hadn’t communicated anything on Facebook. This was a pivotal point for me. I felt like giving up. Instead, I sent out a personal email to my friends and family.

What’s the #1 tip or piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to fundraise and be an advocate themselves?

To me, the most important thing would be to know your WHY. Know why you’re doing this, why you’re participating in the campaign. I think that keeps you persevering through whatever challenges you face. It’s why I sent the email even though it was mid-way through the summer. There are going to be times that it’s a struggle - to get out, to keep persevering, to keep doing what you’re doing. But if you know your reason, your WHY, which was for me was the thought, “How can I not do this to help these people who don’t have the freedom to move like I do?” you will push through.

I would also say, don’t worry about results. There are so many good things out there to give to and many people give to various charities so not everyone is going to sponsor you, and that’s ok. People may or may not give and that is their decision. It isn’t something I’m responsible for. I am responsible for doing my part. That’s so helpful for me to remember.

Be creative. I had an interesting experience last summer when someone pulled out and hit my car as I was driving. Thankfully the person involved stopped and we got to talking. It turned out that they were involved in mission work in the Caribbean. I proposed that instead of them paying the damages, we could take the amount of money it would cost to fix the dent and give half of it to their mission project and half to my project with IJM. They were very pleased with that option…it was just a very neat experience.

Lastly, be genuine, and be generous with your gratitude.

I know I gave you several tips but these all helped me.

What do you bring with you everywhere you go?

A smile. I also try to bring a sweater and my planner. I’m getting better at bringing my phone now too.

What is your favourite way to waste time?

I really don’t like wasting time, even though I know I do. I think this is because I see time as such a valuable resource. But my favourite way to recharge – which may look like I’m wasting time – is sitting at the beach, watching and listening to the waves.

Inspired? Join Just Move today IJM.ca/justmove.

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