After months of careful planning, countless attempted, failed, and successful meetings with local government officials and companies, a billion e-mails and phone calls, many lessons learned and so much excitement and stress, the "Tambacounda Race for Education," was finally made a reality. Check out this pre-race shot of the Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV's) who participated.
On March 4th, 2012, Tamba locals, including policemen, firefighters, military personnel, government officials, students and enthusiastic runners, joined forces with Peace Corps Volunteers from all over Senegal to raise money and awareness for girls' education by flooding the streets to run 5, 10, or 21k (half-marathon)'for the girls.'
People came from as far away as the capital Dakar, an 8-10 hour uncomfortable public transportation ride, to participate. One of these people was Djibby Sow, an all around amazing guy and marathon champ who represented the organization, Malaria No More (dedicated to erradicating malaria), in the NYC marathon last year. Here he is finishing the half-marathon in 1 hr. and 14 min.
The day of the race I was purely content. It became obvious that we had succeeded, not only in raising money for girls' education projects and scholarships, but in our bigger goal of getting people talking about girls' education and the obstacles (early marriage, forced marriage, money, housework, local gender attitudes, etc.) Senegalese girls face in receiving an education. We did radio shows, passed out and hung oodles of fliers, spoke in our villages and at schools and then swamped the Tamba streets race day, leaving people asking, "why are they running?"
(Some of the many school-aged girl participants finishing the 5k. This is what it's all about!)
Change here happens, 'seeda, seeda, tutti, tutti, dong-ding, dong-ding,' little by little, but in order to get the ball rolling people need to start talking and they are! During out pre- and post-race ceremonies, local government officials, educators and Peace Corps staff all spoke on the issues of girls' education. It was inspiring to see people in positions of power or respect speak up for those who have little voice here in Senegal, but who are the face of the future.
This project has been my baby for the past 5 months so seeing it all come together was satisfying to say the least. Here is a photo of me finishing the half-marathon with my PCV support team. I couldn't help but smile seeing all of the Senegalese kids, PC staff, PCV's and other runners joined together for the cause.
I am proud to say that the "Race for Education," will now be an annual event. We have earned the respect and support of local government and companies, as well as, that of Peace Corps Dakar. That, along with all of the lessons learned and mistakes made this year, will make next year epic! We have already had a planning meeting for next year and the brain juices are flowing.
Thank you to all of you who donated to and supported our cause. Donations are still being accepted at: https://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=685-CFD (Write "Marathon for Education" in the comment section please.) Also, if you have Oprah or Ellen connections, we are still into harassing them to come and support us next year. If you haven't seen this video, check out how we tried to get their financial support and presence at our event. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ia8xgXyXBo4 (Since I can't upload videos from here, you'll have to check it out on youtube. It's worth it and will give you a glimpse of Senegalese life and the students you are supporting!)