Just over two weeks left until the Tambacounda Race for Education. I've pledged to run the half marathon in an effort to raise money for Peace Corps Senegal's Michele Sylvester Scholarship. Each year the scholarship awards middle school girls with school tuition and supplies for their hard work and excellence in scholarship.
This past year, I have been working with the 9 scholarship recipients at the middle school in Wassadou and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had so far. I have learned so much about the hardships these girls, and so many others around the world, face everyday just to get half an education. [I am so grateful I have always known the support of family, friends, and teachers in pursuing my own education. Thank you!] Together, these 9 girls and I planned a two day conference, drawing attention to these obstacles and searching for the resources they need to overcome. The event concluded with a moving dialogue between parents and daughters, pledging their support and understanding for one another. Once again, the conference could not have happened without Awa Traore, Peace Corps Senegal's amazing cross-cultural instructor.
The work and effort Awa, Aissatou, Maimouna, Binta, Goundo, Fatimata, Jenabou, Fatimata Binta, and Awa put into their schoolwork and this conference inspired me to run. Their principal was inspired too, and has pledged to run 5k and donate the money he raises back to the girls at the Wassadou middle school.
Seeing me running through their fields early in the morning, people in my village are becoming inspired too. When they first asked jokingly what in the world I'm training form we were laughing at my bright red face and sweat-soaked shirt. (I'm definitely not the image of beauty after a run.) But their faces quickly grew serious when I explained the cause. Especially, so many women, my host moms, grandmas and aunts, who never had the opportunity to go to school, never learned anything but pounding millet and spinning thread.
No one here thinks that I can actually run the 21 kilometers, but I got a couple neighbors to say that they'd throw a dollar my way if I come back with a half marathon certificate. The money's a nice gesture, of course, even more so when it's coming from those who have so little. What really makes me smile, though, is getting the conversation started: girls education and how necessary it is. Now when they see me out running at the crack of dawn, they know I'm not just crazy. We are making a difference - one stride at a time.
For more information about Michele Sylvester Scholarship click here. To donate to the Race for Education, click here - "Race for Education" in comments line please.