UNHCR fundraising campaign asks people to match refugees’ annual billion miles

Melanie May | 14 January 2019 | News

UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has launched a campaign to raise awareness and funds to help refugees around the world, voiced by Ben Stiller.

The Step with Refugees campaign highlights how in total, refugees walk more than 1 billion miles across the globe each year to reach safety, and encourages people to connect their fitness apps and donating the miles they are already covering to match this global total.

In 2019, the campaign will run across 27 countries across Africa, Asia, Central and North America, Europe and the Middle East, with a target of engaging 1.5 million people to sign up. Participants are also encouraged to seek sponsorship to raise funds for UNHCR, which will be used to support refugees as they reach the first point of safety.


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This includes registration and reception services, which provide refugees with access to food and water, household supplies, shelter, and healthcare and psychological support.

Results will be added in real time on the campaign website, so participants can see the individual difference they are making and keep an eye on the running total for the campaign’s duration.

A two-year project, it is led by broadcast design agency Hello Charlie, which worked collaboratively on the lead creative with agency Great State, from inception through to the project launch. The team worked closely with the UN Refugee Agency to find the balance of sentiment and action that it hopes will bring about awareness and change to the plight of refugees across the planet.

Hello Charlie created the essential launch film and Great State constructed the core digital activation, allowing participants to donate their physical activity to help reach the target of a billion miles, generating leads for UNHCR, and raising awareness of the global refugee crisis.

UNHCR campaign
Christian Schaake, Head of Private Sector Partnerships at UNHCR said:

“We know that there is immense public sympathy and compassion for refugees. I see this every day when talking to our donors and supporters all over the world. We wanted to tap into these positive feelings of solidarity by uniting millions of people all over the world in a visible global campaign that both celebrates the resilience and strength of refugees and achieves a common goal to protect them as they reach safety. The public response to this campaign has already been fantastic. It will be inspiring to see people from over 27 countries stepping with refugees, donating miles, donating funds and engaging their family and friends to do the same.”

Charles Golding, Hello Charlie Senior Creative on the project, said: 

“After an extensive period of research and development, the team were able to develop a concept that has global resonance and a universal understanding. The journey narrative is a strong and evocative motif that runs through the entire campaign. Whether you are walking to school or working out in the gym, the campaign allows for anyone from any background to engage and empathise with a subject matter that is often perceived to be far from many people’s daily reality.”

Lucy Weston, Senior Art Director at Great State said: 

“The beauty of this campaign is how easy it makes it for users to connect with refugees. It uses technology in a really subtle way to draw a physical connection and understanding between people who could be millions of miles apart and allows people who feel powerless to help make a difference in everyday life.”