Former Refugees Ran in the Toronto Marathon for a Good Cause

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Resettled Refugees Will Run in the Toronto Marathon to Raise Money to Bring Syrian Refugees to Canada


Gustavo Gutierez and Winnie Muchuba ran in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon to raise money for Syrian refugees coming to Canada. It is much more than a charity as these two individuals came to Canada as refugees and for them the situation in Syria is too painful and similar to watch.

“(Syrian refugees) value peace, they value protection,” Muchuba told CBC’s Metro Morning on Friday. “And for me to support them by running is because they deserve protection. I know myself because I had to leave the war, I know war.”

The two were hoping to raise $60 000 for Romero House which is a refugee support charity. Romero House helped them both when they came to Canada.

A team of 65 participants ran in the marathon yesterday in support of Romero House, 40 of these participants were refugees. The $60 000 will allow for one large Syrian family to come to Canada or for two smaller Syrian families.

Peace of Mind

Gutierez was a police officer in Ciuda Juarez, Mexico for nearly 10 years. He was the co-ordinator for the unit that conducted investigations for homicides against women. Many of his co-workers and fellow police officers lost their lives in the bloody battle against drug cartels.

Gutierez received threats and he was eventually forced to leave the city. He landed in Toronto in November 2008 and lived in Romero House for just over a year. He has now been a permanent resident in Canada for the last three years.

He decided to run in the marathon to support Romero House based on his desire to help Syrian refugees and spread the word about the work that Romero House does.

“It’s not just the shelter, the house,” Gutierez told Metro Morning. “They were our companions through this journey, this lonely journey that is difficult to walk by ourselves. And that support is what I try to give back to Romero.”

Gutierez wants Torontonians to understand how stressful the refugee experience is. He said that it is hard to leave your life behind and then figure out a new culture and social system.

He said that he wants Syrian refugees to experience the same peace of mind that he experiences now.

Winnie Muchuba is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and she lived there with her husband and six small children. Her husband was an activist and politician and she says that he was murdered for trying to change the country.

She fled to Uganda with her children but she was discovered there. She knew someone that was volunteering in Canada and was therefore able to escape to Toronto. Her youngest children remain in West Africa in Kenya in relative safety.

Muchuba says that she is walking the marathon because she understands the trauma that women and children go through during these conflicts. She says that she once saw a women be killed and her child then tried to breastfeed from its dead mother. She says that that image has never left her.

Whenever Muchuba thinks about the refugees in Syria, she puts herself in their shoes.

“So much is lost in times of war,” she said.

Now a citizen, Muchuba wants to help others achieve the same goal.

The more money they can raise at the marathon means more Syrian families can come to Canada, according to the charity.

“There are times when all of us want to go the extra mile,” says Romero House founder Mary Jo Leddy. “We are compelled to take this action to help those who so desperately need care and safety from conflict.”

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