On a path of activism

Starting out
By ESMÉ E. DEPREZ  |  September 6, 2006

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BORDER LINE: Almost there
As the of ’06 packed up to leave the University of Richmond, in Virginia, one final time, Isaiah Oliver, 23, filled his backpack with 70 pounds of food, camping gear, and a Jack Kerouac novel. With two friends, he hit the Appalachian Trail to walk nearly 1000 miles home — to Peaks Island.

“I was studying in Poland my junior year when I learned my best friend Andrew was dead after a freak waterfall accident in Rome. I couldn’t fly home for his funeral and was looking for closure. Then I remembered something we used to joke about — how it’d be fun to walk from our college apartment to our doorsteps,” Oliver says.

Inspired by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof’s attempts to expose the current genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan and “our government’s shameful lack of response to it, I figured this would be a great opportunity to remember Andrew while raising money and awareness for something I care passionately about.” It’s the beginning of what he hopes will be a lifetime dedicated to international humanitarian work.

Averaging 15 miles a day, the walk took just over two months to complete and Oliver arrived in Portland last month. “We ended up raising about $14,000, the majority of which went to Doctors Without Borders to fund their efforts in Darfur and the rest to the International Rescue Committee in Pakistan after last October’s earthquake. I started receiving donations in August 2005, and sent the money as it came, instead of all at once at the end because I figured the quicker it got there the more effective it’d be.”

Oliver’s decision to partake in something “alternative” after graduating from college instead of rushing to a nine-to-five job is becoming increasingly popular among his peers — and is the subject of an upcoming show on mtvU (MTV’s college network) in which his story is scheduled to appear.

“Living life for the story was what Andrew did,” Oliver says. “I’m happy that I actually followed through with it because that’s what he would have done.”

On the Web
Isaiah Oliver: http://www.isaiaholiver.com/

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