On July 4, 2017, I will begin a 220 mile Pilgrimage to Ellis Island to raise $20,000 to fund the MIRA Coalition and Edlumino.
I feel passionately about supporting these organizations, because we stand at a crux in our history. Daily we are bombarded with news reports of hate crimes and deportations of minorities in the US. Today we have the largest refugee population since World War II; the UNHCR reports that there 65.3 million people forcibly displaced worldwide. Since the first landing of the Pilgrims in 1620, America has been a refuge for people fleeing from oppression and terror.
I personally understand what it is to leave everything I know and reach out to strangers for help.
When I was fifteen, I ran away from home. I figured life beyond my parents’ house held much more promise of safety, understanding, and love. At such a young age, I wasn’t able to create a life, but instead, was sent through the juvenile system in Massachusetts and Virginia. An experience that taught me to rely on people outside of my failed family structure.
I could say that my adult life has reflected my adolescent years of wandering, as I’ve undertaken two personal pilgrimages. In 2013, I walked the Portuguese route of the Camino de Santiago from Lisbon, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. And in 2016, I walked the first stages of the Via Francigena from Canterbury, England to Tergnier, France. On both journeys, I again relied on people to give me directions, keep me company during the long miles, and remained ever grateful for a meal and bed at night. I, in turn, gave back to people I’d met along the way, an exchange of friendship and guidance. This is the spirit of a pilgrimage, to come together for a common goal and reach out to strangers.
Today, I am in a position to pay forward what has freely been given to me. We are a nation of “give us your tired, hungry, and poor,” and I am here to stand up for this value. I am deeply committed to walk the miles and support the immigrants and refugees, during the most vulnerable time in their lives. I’ve asked myself many times - if I don’t then who will?
My pilgrimage begins at Plymouth (Rock), Massachusetts. From this historic place, I will walk in between 18 to 23 miles per day to reach New York City by July 14th. During my journey, I gather stories of the people I meet on my journey and share them on my website. There are millions of immigrant stories waiting to be told, and I want my website to be a place where their voices can be heard. On July 16th, the Final Stage of the Pilgrimage: one mile from New York City Hall Plaza to the Statue Ferry terminal at Battery Park, where I’ll embark to Ellis Island. Over 12 million immigrants came through the Island between 1892 and 1954. Joined by my friends and supporters, we’ll participate in the symbolic journey of all immigrants and refugees. Ellis Island stands as a beacon of new beginnings. My hope is that the Pilgrimage to Ellis Island will shed light on an undeniable fact: We are all refugees and immigrants, searching for a safe place to land.
Edlumino Team note:
We are so happy when we get an email from people like Sarah Kilgallon. She got in touch asking how she could help us as she was in the USA and wasn't a teacher volunteer. We described our current main struggles, and she thought about it and came back with a wonderfully practical way to support us. Her walk sounds amazing. If you are not as physically active as Sarah and available for the whole journey, joining her team in New York for the final leg of a very do-able mile on the 16th July is a great show of support for her work supporting refugees. Sarah thank you. Your passion and warmth shines through. We look forward to many more updates over the next 3 months.
Sarah's Pilgrimage to Ellis Island website here.