Sunday walk will aid projects in developing countries

Houston to be one of four participating U.S. cities

Leslie Linehan

Staff Writer

Mayor Lee Brown will welcome dignitaries and guests from abroad to the University of Houston Sunday for the 5K Partnership Walk benefiting the Aga Khan Foundation.

One of the dignitaries who will be on campus to participate in the event is Princess Zahra, daughter of His Highness the Aga Khan.

For the first time, Houston has been chosen as one of the four American cities, along with Atlanta, Dallas and Pasadena, California, to host the Partnership Walk. Though cities in the United Kingdom, Canada, Portugal and Kenya are also playing host to the event, the foundation expects the largest participation to take place in the United States.

The foundation anticipates that more than 10,000 people will participate in the Houston event, according to Zeenat Mitha of the Aga Khan Foundation.

"Students and faculty should come out because it's such a fun event. The entire day is filled with different types of music, entertainment and food," Mitha said.

The Aga Khan Foundation has organized the Partnership Walks to promote public awareness of the challenges that face people in developing countries and to raise funds for innovative programs that promote health, education and rural development.

"The entire event has been organized by volunteers, many of whom are students and believe so strongly in this outreach program," Mitha said.

The foundation and in-kind contributors will underwrite all the event's costs so that the money raised will go directly toward supporting programs in Asia and Africa.

"One hundred percent of the funds raided by this walk go to AKF-sponsored programs in developing countries," Mitha said.

Each year, the Partnership Walk event focuses on international development issues related to a specific theme. This year's theme is "Women and Development: A World of Opportunity."

The Aga Khan Foundation views women's development as an integral part of community development. A long-term commitment of the foundation is to raise the competence and confidence of women in the areas of economic and rural development and education.

Princess Zahra actively works for the welfare of poor women in developing countries.

"When women can improve their social and economic well-being, the benefits spread to their families, communities and nations," she said.

Walkers are expected to get sponsors to contribute at least $5. Awards will be distributed to the walkers who raise $100 or more. The walker who raises and submits the highest-dollar amount of sponsorship Sunday will win a trip to Hawaii.

All contributions must be received Sunday to qualify for any of the awards.

Opening ceremonies, including warm-up exercises, will be presented by Dave Ward and Gina Gaston of KTRK-TV at 11 a.m. in Lynn Eusan Park behind Moody Towers and the University Hilton.

After the warm-up, walkers will start the 5K walk at Cullen Performance Hall, winding their way across the UH campus. A family picnic and live entertainment in Lynn Eusan Park will complete the day's activities.

Registration will begin at 8 a.m. Sunday at the registration tent. For early registration, pick up a registration form at the information center in the University Center.

The Aga Khan Foundation was established in Switzerland in 1967 by Aga Khan IV, leader of the Ismailis, a sect of Shiite Muslims. The foundation was established in the United States in 1981.

For more information, contact the Houston Walk Office at (888) 254-4253.

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