“There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it”– Edith Wharton
Safaricom Marathon: Spreading light through education
Running a marathon in the wild has now become a top entry in most bucket lists. And the only place in the world where this exciting adventure is offered once every year is the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.
For the last 16 years since inception, the Safaricom Marathon has grown in leaps and bounds into an event that many people look forward to. The first run held in the year 2000, had only 180 runners who managed to raise USD 50,000. This number has since grown to 1,400 runners who raised USD 640,000 in 2015.
This passion for running as a sport combined with fundraising has not only attracted more tourists to Kenya and increased interest in the Lewa Conservancy, but has also empowered the surrounding communities through various initiatives. The impact can be seen and felt by all who attend the Safaricom Marathon through organized community tours conducted a day or two before the actual run.
The Lewa Education Programme (LEP) is one of the top items in the Lewa community projects which benefits from the Safaricom Marathon. Faith Riunga, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy’s Education Programme Manager, highlights that the main objective of the program is to sensitise communities about wildlife and conservation.
LEP runs a conservation education program which was started to communicate conservation at its best. The program runs three days a week free of charge. Students within the program and others from all over Kenya who are interested in conservation apply to visit and are taken for educational game drives, taught about the wildlife in the Lewa, and about conservation of their environment. They get hands on training on how to do different things that are applicable in their day to day lives such as rain water harvesting, farming, and drip irrigation.
When the Lewa community upholds conservation, they gain the benefits through LEP which fills in the gaps in education for the marginalised communities by providing scholarships for quality education from Primary school through to University, building classrooms, availing learning resources, providing food during school hours, sourcing and training additional teachers and volunteers.
In the scholarships program, LEP is working with 21 public schools, some around the conservancy and others selected through conservation leverage. Some of the children come from these primary schools, and then they join high school and University through the same program.
“We are encouraged that the initiative is working and we keep working at it when we see those children who walked in and couldn’t look up and have a conversation, move on to graduate even with a Masters degree.” Riunga says.
Riunga shares that about 80% of the children from the sponsored schools are now employed and a majority want to give back because someone believed in them, somebody gave to them, and they too want to light a candle.
Recently she received emails from two former LEP students, one is teaching in a youth vocational centre, and he says;
“Thank you so much for believing in me it is now my time to give back….we had enough fights, but you still hung in there and you held my hand and now I am working as an instructor.”
Martin Kimaita, is also another LEP beneficiary through Primary school, high school, and up to Kenya Methodist University where he graduated with Bachelors in IT. He is now working as a Communication specialist with Northern Rangeland Trust says;
“Thank you so much … when things were not working right, when I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to be, you believed in me… I have walked this far and now I am working. Please let me know how I can give back.”
Riunga encourages more people to sign up to attend one of the Safaricom Marathons as a runner or spectator so as to continue making a difference among the communities. The funds go a great length in lighting candles and reflecting light by providing that needy child with a classroom, a desk, and a teacher, thereby improving the livelihoods of the people within and around Lewa, and promoting conservation of nature and wildlife.
To find out why you should attend the Safaricom Marathon check out this post Running Wild In Lewa: The #SafaricomMarathon Where Fun Meets Conservation.