Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Run For Congo Women

In 2000, the NY Times reported a grossly underestimated number of lives lost in the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Times reported that 100,000 lives and been lost. In fact, the figure was closer to 3.9 million. That means that the war in the Congo is without question the world's deadliest conflict since World War II. Since that time, 38,000 victims have continued to die every month and approximately half of those deaths were children under the age of five.

More about the conflict in Congo can be read on the internet; and there is a link at the end of this article; but what I want to talk about is one woman’s response to this tragedy once she learned about it

As Lisa Shannon puts it in her own words:

“Watching Lisa Ling's report on Oprah about the conflict in the eastern Congo, shock waves went through me. 4 million people dead. Women gang raped and tortured daily, many held captive as sex slaves, sometimes for years. Innocent children tortured, starved, and left to die. 6 out of 10 children die before the age of 5. Yet no one is talking about it.

“Of the few organizations working in the war zone, one stood out. I signed up immediately to sponsor two "sisters" in the Congo through Women for Women International. For $27 per month, they match you with a woman, and give her the resources she needs to rebuild her life: support groups, rights awareness, and small business training.

“But I remained haunted by this horror, which continues to be met with stunning silence by the world. What would I have done if I lived in 1939 Germany, or if had been aware of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda? Oprah's challenge lingered, "Now that you know, you can't pretend you didn't hear it." I had to do more.”

And she did more. What Lisa Shannon has done is organize a movement that has spread to three countries, including several states in the U.S. That movement is Run for Congo Women.

Run for Congo Women is a grassroots run or walk or bike or swim or bake or pray fundraiser for Women for Women International's Congo Program. In only one year, it has blossomed into a global movement with a very simple message:

What started as a lone run has quickly blossomed into a global movement, with 2006 runs in 10 states and 4 countries, from Texas, to Chicago, Seattle to Berlin and Ireland.

Whatever the distance or activity, the people involved in Run for Congo Women share a very simple statement:

“Congolese lives matter. The lives of Congolese women are significant. The lives of Congolese children are precious. They have waited far too long. They are worth our effort. We are running to help.”

Run for Congo Women comes under the umbrella of Women for Women International. Women for Women International operates sponsorship programs in 8 countries recovering from conflict. They sponsor women in the Congo to support their efforts to rebuild their lives. For $27/ month, and a $30 initiation fee. Sponsored women receive financial support for their basic needs and participate in Women for Women International support groups and training. Participation in the program helps them monetarily and in building a support network in their own community.

On September 10, 2005, Lisa Shannon finished the 30.16 mile run in 7 hours, 45 minutes running alone through Portland's Woodland Trail. That year she raised over $28,000 in pledges – enough to sponsor 80 women at $354.00 a year. She had only wanted to raise enough money to sponsor thirty one women – one woman for each mile she ran. But she raised over twice that amount. In 2006 she completed a second 30 mile run for Congo Women, and was joined by hundreds of other runners in 10 states and 4 countries. Her goal in that year was to raise $1 million. And the runs continue in more and more locations. Runners are running for Congo Women in Ireland, Berlin, London and across the U.S.

Below is a list of some of the runs for 2007

Hood to Coast "Collective Action" Relay Team,, Mt.Hood & Portland - August 24-25th

10k/5k Colorado Hike/Run for Congo Women, Morrison, CO - Saturday, September 15th, 2007

5K Run/Walk, Roosevelt Island, New York, NY - Saturday, September 29th, 2007

NC Runs for Congo, Catawba River Greenway Park, Morganton, NC - Saturday, October 6th

Chicago Walk/Run for Congo Women, 5k, Chicago, Lincoln Park - Saturday, October 6th

6K Trail Run/Walk, Queeny Park, St. Louis, MO - Saturday, October 20th, 2007

Tempe / Phoenix, AZ: 10K Run/Walk - Kiwanis Park, Tempe, Tempe, AZ - Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Hunter NY 5k, Hunter, New York - Saturday, November 3rd


jen said...

Great blog, and thanks so much for featuring Lisa and the Run for Congo Women. I am one of the organizers for the Morrison, Colorado run. I have taken on a new challenge at the moment to win the Parade Magazine America's Giving Challenge for Women for Women International. For more info visit and read the January 1st post. The top eight charities that receive the highest number of individuals donating $10 or more will win $50,000 for their charity. I am just trying to spread the word to other Women for Women supporters! Thanks!

Ann said...

This blog is terrific. I thought I'd let you know of another upcoming event that benefits women in the Congo, and Women for Women International. The first Yoga for Congo Women is being held in Colorado on Sept. 18, 2010. For more information, and to see if you'd like to feature anything about them, their website is: Thanks!