Participation in a fundraising run here in Chatham-Kent in April will help a family 13,000 kilometres away.
The Run4Rufiji takes place April 7, with the proceeds earmarked to help send a team of local people to the Rufiji River in Tanzania, Africa to help build a house for a family in need.
Dale Elliott, a member of Team Tanzania 963, the group of locals headed for Tanzania in late July, and one of the run organizers, said the run is a family event, not a chipped and closely timed run.
“It’s a family event for fun and to raise awareness of what we’re doing in Africa,” he said. “We’re building a house for a family. They live in a thatched-roof, dirt-floor hut. They’re living in squalor.”
Why send help to Tanzania? Elliott said there is a local connection with the East Africa River Mission. It’s creator is Graydon Baker, who grew up in Chatham-Kent. He’s the son of former Emmanuel Baptist Church pastor Rick Baker.
“He’s been there six years, with the non-profit and a safari business,” Elliott said. “We’re supporting what he’s doing by going over and giving our time.”
The trip takes place over three weeks, from July 24 to Aug. 15. Elliott said it would entail two solid weeks of building.
The mission is also erecting a school in the area, where children can learn English.
“Their only chance of advancement is to learn English,” Elliott said of the children, “so they can go to university. There’s nothing wrong with hard work and labour, but if they want to become educated and go on to become a teacher or a doctor or anything else, they have to learn English.”
Elliott said members of the team have to be prepared for a drastic difference in lifestyle in Tanzania at the build site.
“From everything I’ve heard, it’s like stepping back in time about 120 years. It’s unreal,” he said. “We have no idea (of the poverty). I’m not diminishing what we see around here; there’s a lot of poverty. But in Africa, it’s a different ball game. They don’t have water, electricity … all the things we take for granted.”
Here in Canada, we assume most, if not all, farms have tractors. That’s not the case where Team Tanzania 963 is headed.
“At Christmas, they (the mission) gifted the community with a farm tractor. It was a huge deal there,” Elliott said. “All of a sudden they could do a lot more planting that they just couldn’t do before.”
Fourteen people make up Team Tanzania 963, with a dozen coming from Emmanuel Baptist Church and two from St. Paul’s Congregational.
Some of the funding for the trip is coming from the churches, and team members are putting in their own money as well, Elliott said.
To help send the 14 members of the team to Tanzania, and to help fund the projects they will work on while there, Elliott asks for participation in the Run4Rufiji.
He added, organizers have kept costs down, with the entry point at $50 for a family or $20 per individual.
They’ve also kept it fairly basic. Simple food, such as fruit and granola bars, will be available to runners, and they can purchase a T-shirt. In fact, they can purchase one for a child in Tanzania too.
“For $30, you get a race shirt and give a Canada 150 shirt to a child in Africa. We’ve partnered with some great local businesses to be able to do that.”
But to get a shirt, you must register by March 15 at www.run4rufiji.com.
Elliott added he’s not sure at this point if this will become an annual event but noted that the churches will send missionaries to the region in the future.
“We could bring back the run, depending on the popularity of it,” he said.