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Saturday December 10th

N.C. State student takes 'The Walk of Immigrants' to raise awareness, funds for school

Saul Flores embarked on the long and dangerous 5,328-mile journey, “The Walk of the Immigrants,” from Ecuador to North Carolina this summer and shared his story with an audience of about 100 students and faculty members on Thursday.

He walked from Quito, Ecuador, to Charlotte with only a camera, a backpack and a couple of changes of clothes.

Saul Flores embarked on the long and dangerous 5,328-mile journey, “The Walk of the Immigrants,” from Ecuador to North Carolina this summer and shared his story with an audience of about 100 students and faculty members on Thursday. He walked from Quito, Ecuador, to Charlotte with only a camera, a backpack and a couple of changes of clothes.

He said his goal was to raise awareness of the dangerous journey that many Latin American immigrants make to the United States. He also wants to raise money to rebuild the school of General Emiliano Zapata in Atencingo, Mexico, where his family is from.

“I wanted to experience the journey of a migrant and translate it to the American public,” Flores said.

Flores is a senior Mexican-American student at N.C. State University.

He said he started his journey May 17 and finished Aug. 11. He walked, hitchhiked and took buses across borders of 10 countries with limited budgets and resources.

Despite his struggles to get to the U.S., he said he was grateful for the generosity of the members of the communities where he had to stay. They offered him places to sleep and food.

But Flores ate only once a day, enough to have the strength to keep going.

He lost 20 pounds.

Flores met migrants who were on their way north. He said he felt like he was one of them. No longer was his goal to travel around the Americas or photograph the journey.

“My only purpose was to get home and see my family,” Flores said. “Whenever I lost the motivation or desire to keep going, the thought of my siblings and the children of Atencingo gave me strength.”

He picked the school in Atencingo because a lot of the children suffer directly from their parent’s decision to immigrate to the U.S.

“Their parents decide to go to the States because they are forced to find jobs to send money back and support their families,” Flores said. “We want to help the children get a better education and dream of a different and better future.”

Theresa Flores, a junior psychology and Latin American studies double major at UNC and Saul’s sister, said Saul inspired her to be passionate with others and always pushed her to keep going with whatever she set her mind to.

“It’s that drive inside him and his hope to help others that inspires me,” Theresa Flores said. “He has crazy ideas, but makes them work.”

Flores said he cannot imagine not sharing all the privileges he has with the children of Atencingo.

“From this past summer, I can say that the pursuit of happiness is a right of every member of the planet,” Flores concluded.

The audience gave him a standing ovation.

Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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