Our Virtual Race this weekend was an amazing success, thanks to YOUR support, your willingness to run, and your outpouring of encouragement on Facebook as we streamed the video of the run live from Uganda. Here, President Tim Spaulding shares his experience as he ran with the girls of Christine's House, and more than 400 others.
Run for them.
Run for freedom.
Run for their lives.
This is the slogan we’ve used for our Run 4 Their Lives events for a number of years. But what about running with them? Can’t say we’ve done that before—until this weekend!
On Saturday, July 23, we hosted our first multi-continental Run 4 Their Lives event. Our team on the ground in Uganda set up a Run 4 Their Lives race with the girls from Christine’s House along with more than 400 others from the local community that took place at 4 p.m. Ugandan Time. Back in North America, more than 60 people from across the continent signed up for the “virtual” race, running their own 5K at the exact same time (9 a.m. eastern time, 8 a.m. central time, etc.). The purpose was to have us all running together even though we were separated by thousands of miles.
With the help of Facebook’s live streaming video, we were able to bring the race in Uganda back to North America. Since then, the live stream videos have been viewed by thousands of people around the world.
During my run, I talked to dozens of participants. Toward the end of the race, I saw a single, barefooted girl in a skirt running by herself up ahead of me. After a few moments, I caught up to her and asked her name. Martha and I ran together for about half a mile and during that time she shared with me that she was in the 7th grade, loved math and science, and dreams of one day of becoming a nurse. As I listened to her dreams, I said a silent prayer asking God to protect her as she works toward her goals.
Back home, I might have said something like “good luck with that” because the ability to achieve one’s goals in the U.S. is mostly contingent on how hard a person wants to work. But this isn’t the case in Uganda, and it’s certainly not the case in Nwoya District where we held the race. Last night, I learned a startling truth about sexual exploitation and the most frequent form of sex trafficking in Uganda—child marriages. According to public records recently gathered from police data, 49.9% of children in Uganda are sexually abused and 68.9% of children in Nwoya District are forced into early marriage.
The reason Freedom 4/24 exists is to provide a way for each of us to play a part in making sickening statistics like these a thing of the past. By hosting events like Run 4 Their Lives, Ride 4 Freedom, and Freedom Gala, we raise awareness of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. By donating and supporting our work, you make it possible to change the future for girls in Uganda and around the world.
After the race, I saw Martha. She was tired and thirsty from having run a long distance but she flashed me a smile as I congratulated her on completing the race. After medals were given to the top male and female runners and the ceremony concluded, I saw Martha begin to walk home. As I watched her walk away, I said another silent prayer for Martha. Whether you realize it, if you ran in our virtual race this weekend, or participated in any of our events around the country, or have donated to Freedom 4/24, you are now part of her story, one that is now transforming from despair to beautiful hopes and dreams for her future.
Whether you realize it, if you ran in our virtual race this weekend, or participated in any of our events around the country, or have donated to Freedom 4/24, you are now part of her story—one that is transforming from despair to beautiful hopes and dreams for her future.