Chalda Punjab – 100 mile Walkathon from Seattle to Canada Border

A story of inception of Chalda Punjab project. A Punjabi native, Ra Grewal completed a 110 mile journey from Seattle to Canada border in 5 days in July 2020 and here is how it all started.

To raise awareness and funds for families in rural Punjab during this pandemic, Ra Grewal is about to embark on a journey of 100 miles — but she’s never done anything like this before.

Ra Grewal was a couple of weeks into her new position at RoundGlass (RoundGlass Foundation) when an email came in that amazed her: Colleagues were signing up for a wellbeing challenge to walk 100 miles from Seattle to the Canadian border.

“How will they do this?” she wondered. “How long will it take? Will they take time off of work?” It seemed like an ambitious goal.

And then she thought, “If they can do it, so can I.”

It turns out it was a virtual challenge, and everyone was tracking their steps in order to cumulatively walk to Canada — although they would not actually be heading for the border. But by that point, the seed had been planted. Grewal had already calculated how long she thought it would take her, and she was determined to give it a try. Instead of just walking for the challenge of it, she wanted to put one foot in front of the other for a higher purpose.

Providing Help Where It’s Needed

Grewal was born in Punjab, India, and moved to Toronto with her family when she was 12. “I know my reality today looks totally different than if I had stayed in Punjab,” she says, “because coming from a rural village, my family wouldn’t have had enough resources to continue our education.”

During this uncertain time, families in rural Punjab have been severely impacted by the lockdown. Many are unable to go to work and feed themselves and their families. They’re taking turns eating between family members so that no one sleeps hungry. Even though same parts of the lockdown has been lifted, families continue to face the rippling negative effects of this pandemic.

Grewal is aware everyday that this too could have been her and her family’s reality had they stayed in their rural village in Punjab. Fortunately, she is in a much different place than where she grew up. She has the ability to make a living working safely from her living room. She’s fortunate and wants to give back to the community, to which she has a deep connection. So when she decided to walk 100 miles, she knew she wanted to help the people of Punjab, where many families are daily wage workers and rely on their daily earnings to survive. Here at RoundGlass, she’s working with the RoundGlass Foundation to raise funds for a project to provide relief kits that include food and hygiene supplies to rural families.

RoundGlass Foundation not only providing relief during the pandemic — its main mission is to bring wellbeing to the individuals, communities and the environment and to return Punjab to its glory days. There are many wonderful nonprofit organizations, but what makes RoundGlass Foundation so special is that it’s not going after the symptoms of problems — it’s going after the root cause, providing tools to one individual at a time so that eventually entire communities can be transformed. Grewal describes it like a tree. You can do great work on all parts of a tree — at the branches, the trunk or the leaves, for example — but RoundGlass is right at the roots. “The roots are the hardest place to implement change because they’re embedded so deep,” she says, “but once you start creating different roots, the whole tree inevitably transforms and provides long-lasting, sustainable change.” And that’s the vision and mission of RoundGlass Foundation, that once work gets implemented at the root level, one day the whole state of Punjab will return to prosperity of wellbeing.

Walking with a Purpose

The challenge that lies in front of Grewal pales in comparison to those faced by the people she’s hoping to help, but it will be a challenge nonetheless. She’s never done anything like this before, although she’s always wanted to do a long walk. Her plan is to cover 25 miles a day, walking 10 hours at a time over the course of four days.

Training is difficult. On one five-hour training walk, her legs were starting to give up four hours into it. “I felt if I walked another step, I would fall flat on my face,” she says. “But then I remembered this wise advice that it’s actually our mind that starts to give up way before our body does.” So she told herself to just walk another half an hour and then maybe she could get a ride home. Another half an hour passed and her legs were stiff. “I was pretty much a zombie at this point,” she remembers. “But home was only another half an hour away. I thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps I won’t be able to move my legs tomorrow, but I work from home.’ I gave myself a pep talk. ‘Let’s go, Ra, this is easy. All you have to do is take one more step.’”

Half an hour later, at 9:30 p.m., she made it home. She stretched her legs, massaged her feet, thanked her body and put it to rest. “I learned firsthand that our mind and body can endure a lot more than what we think it can,” she says.

She has since done 7 hours of walking each day for 3 consecutive days and now she feels ready for her walk this Thursday July 16th where she will be completing 100 miles from Seattle to Canada Border in 4 days.

As Grewal journeys from her current home in the United States to her second home in Canada to benefit her roots in India, she knows there are more lessons of interconnectedness to learn. She will be there to soak them all in, starting one step at a time.

Ra Grewal’s role at RoundGlass Foundation (RGF) is to connect Punjabi community around the globe to the grassroots work of RGF in Punjab, India. Feel free to reach out to her if you would like to get involved in bringing wellbeing and prosperity to the state and people of Punjab!

(Article written by Haley Shapley and Jessica Stasiw at RoundGlass Wellbeing)

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