Running a marathon may be tough for even the most training-hardened athletes, but it pales into insignificance when compared with the challenges children face every day in refugee camps.
That’s the view of Mark Vainikka, pastor at St Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Brisbane City, who will run his first 42km foot race at next month’s Gold Coast Marathon, to raise money to send children at Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp to pre-school.
‘While training for and running a marathon is a challenge, it is nothing compared to the challenge that especially young children face in places such as Kakuma’, Pastor Mark said. ‘They’re the true heroes of this world; the unsung champions whose stories need to reach the ears and eyes of people in the West.’
Pastor Mark is aiming to send one child to pre-school in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya, for a year, for every kilometre he runs on 3 July. That’s putting 42 children into pre-school through Australian Lutheran World Service and the Lutheran World Federation.
It costs $29 to send a child to pre-school for a year at Kakuma. A part of this amount also goes towards the training of pre-school teachers.
Pastor Mark has never visited the Kenyan camp, but was inspired to raise funds for pre-schooling there after reading the story of Lopez Lomong, a child refugee who became a US Olympic team athlete.
‘I started reading more about Kakuma and the awful fate of refugees in Kenya’, Pastor Mark said. ‘For Lomong, running became a significant part of his long road to freedom and healing, as did education. Raising funds for children’s pre-schooling at Kakuma made perfect sense for me.’
A former master’s cyclist who also has lost 42 kg over the past decade, Pastor Mark enlisted marathoner and running coach Pat Carroll to put together a training plan to help with his transition to running. He has been following the training since October last year.
Anyone wanting to donate to Australian Lutheran World Service for this cause can do so securely here.
READ MORE STORIES ABOUT Qld