TORONTO – Hasan Syed, a community bridge-builder active in the Canadian city of Thunder Bay, has undertaken a cross-country run to raise awareness about the water crisis among First Nations communities in Canada.
“I have decided to run from Vancouver to Ottawa to raise awareness about the lack of clean water for the First Nations, with the hope that together we can bring clean drinking water to every Canadian home,” Hasan Syed told AboutIslam.net.
Syed was shocked to learn about the conditions on some reserves, and thought Canada had moved beyond basic water access issues he witnessed in his native Pakistan.
As of the end of February, there were more than 81 drinking water advisories in First Nations communities across the country.
“It literally took me back to the country I immigrated from. Like then there’s no difference between here and there,” said Syed.
Until then, he had assumed the services he had access to were afforded to all Canadians.
“I was under the impression that the lifestyle I had been living with my minimum wage working parents, living in a 2-bedroom apartment, sharing a room with 2 other siblings – an average immigrant family living situation – was a lifestyle afforded to all citizen of this great nation. Sadly, and to my utter disappointment, I was wrong.”
Upon learning more, he knew he had to take action and his faith played a crucial role.
“I was finishing the last semester of my nursing degree which would eventually give me a position in society to do something good, when I learned about this issue,” said Syed. “It came full force into my life and really put me in a distressful place.”
“However, if I had remained unaware of these unstable living conditions of my fellow citizens, I would continue to live in ignorance. That’s when I knew that I had to do something about it.”
“I feel like there’s like God saying, ‘Okay, I told you about this. Now what are you going to do about it?'”
Partnering up with First Nations organizations, Syed founded Access 2 Clean Water, to raise awareness about the issue and funds to develop solutions.
“I’m brand new to this, so I’m still learning how to approach these situations and how to be respectable so I don’t overstep any boundaries,” he said.
Syed’s journey started in Vancouver and his goal is to reach Ontario in 150 days – marking the 150 years anniversary of Canadian confederation.
“In recognition of Canada’s 150th year of existence, we will run from Vancouver, BC to Ottawa via Toronto over 150 days to raise awareness on the First Nation’s water crisis,” noted Syed.
“We plan to accumulate funds that will aid us in working alongside First Nations communities to have access to clean water, a right for all humans on this land we call home.”
Given the tumultuous history between First Nations and the Federal Government, this journey represents the ongoing struggle in the era of reconciliation.
To support the project, a Go Fund Me page has been set up and is almost halfway towards its goal.
You can also follow Syed’s journey through the Access 2 Clean Water Instagram account which has photos and videos of the trek.