Whoever. Wherever. Whenever.
Everyone has the right to seek safety

Lai Su Yim, LEAP@JRS sub-committee chair, was one of the 663 participants who braved a tropical storm to complete the Walking for Refugees event held on June 20, 2022, to commemorate World Refugee Day. She reflects on the theme for World Refugee Day this year and her experience of the walk.

The news of the hour for 2022 must surely be the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Whilst the media focuses its attention on the leaders of this conflict and their pleas for more ammunition, and affirmation, that further escalate the crisis, the spotlight should instead be on the plight of the people of Ukraine. Overnight, the peace and quiet of the Ukrainian people were shattered by a conflict that has now moved past 100 days. Scores of people have been forced to flee and seek refugee far from a place they once called home. Many are children who have been displaced from their families.

The plight of a refugee has never seemed so stark since World Refugee Day was first celebrated globally on 20th June 2001, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. World Refugee Day (WRD) is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It celebrates the strength and the courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. WRD is an occasion to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognize their resilience in rebuilding their lives. (UNHCR.org)

This year, a group of 663 people in Singapore on the morning of 20 June did just that.

Our walk was a return 7km from Asia Square to the Marina Barrage. The well-planned route took us through the iconic landscape of downtown Singapore – past the lush, landscaped Gardens by the Bay and the picturesque Marina Promenade. We looked forward to the walk with excitement. We were prepared in our walking gear, and a little tropical storm could not hold us back. The question on everyone’s mind – will the organisers call it off to stop us from getting wet? Many of us were glad we walked, relishing the walk in the rain. We knew very well too, that we would return to warm cups of kopi and breakfast fare – steaming bowls of yong tauhu and kaya toast perhaps.

That is the difference.

With the 100 million displaced people forced to flee into the unknown, there is no time to prepare, no itinerary in hand. #walkingforrefugees is a good start to open our hearts to better understand the plight of the displaced. 663 people in Singapore walked for 100 million displaced people in the world.

We at JRS are grateful to Marsh Singapore for spearheading #walkingforrefugees and raising refugee awareness among the insurance community. We remember the Vietnamese Boat People from years ago in the late 1970’s to more recent crises in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Ukraine. The crises are deepening, leaving us with a huge sense of helplessness. In the midst of it all, we take a pause; we reflect.

Pope Francis reminds us that we must look “Towards an ever wider We: A we as wide as humanity”. It is our shared responsibility in protecting the lives of those who are forced to flee. We do whatever we can in our own little ways.

Collin Yap 'walking for refugees' in Rome at the exact time the event was being held in Singapore.

As Mr. Alan Cheah, Chairman of Marsh Asia urged the participants that rainy morning, “We can, and should, do more for our fellow man… In moments like these, we cannot turn a blind eye.”

Our sincere thanks to Marsh Singapore, MS First Capital Insurance, Allianz Group, Allied World Assurance Company, Liberty Specialty Markets, MSIG Insurance, QBE Insurance, and Tokio Marine Insurance for their time, effort and generous contribution towards making the difference. Most importantly for the belief in the JRS mission “to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of the refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, that they may heal, learn and determine their own future”.

Jesuit Refugee Service will continue the Walk.


Some of the JRS volunteers doing the walk.