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A Brighter Future

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A Brighter Future

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NOW INTO ITS 8TH YEAR, RUN FOR WATER CONTINUES TO INSPIRE AND CHANGE LIVES, BY BRINGING CLEAN WATER PROJECTS TO ETHIOPIA.

In 2006, two old high school friends from Abbotsford Randall “Peg” Peters and Ken Baerg reconnected over a cup of coffee and their shared passion for running. Ken had recently completed the Vancouver Sun Run and Peg had participated in a couple marathons, and both agreed, their own community was missing a high-caliber running event. “Ken said why don’t we put on our own run in Abbotsford,” Peg recalls the conversation from nearly a decade ago. “We started to dream about it, what should we do it for and what charity should it benefit?” Ken mentioned a charity that brought water to Ethiopia. Unbeknownst to him Peg had lived in Ethiopia as a child. “I lived in Ethiopia as a kid in the 70’s,” Peg tells us, “There was a famine going on. I remember one Sunday afternoon walking through the city. Mom and I would go to the bakery and buy loaves of French bread and break off chunks to kids on the street who hadn’t eaten in a week, these kids didn’t have water or food.” Bringing water to Ethiopia would help Peg reengage that part of his childhood, “I always had this belief, that we as human beings have the responsibility to respond to these inequalities.” Run for Water was born. The annual running event raises funds to bring clean water development to Ethiopia, with 100% of the funds going directly to the projects. “It’s about shifting resources, we can solve this,” Peg explains, “doesn’t everybody deserve access to water?”

 

Now heading into its 8th year, Envision Financial Run for Water has grown from 600 runners to an estimated 5,000. Each year, the race benefits a village in Ethiopia, and this year it will be Yella, a small rural town of 18,000. The goal is to bring a gravity flow water system to Yella, a system that will ultimately change the lives of those in the village, in particular, the girls. “Girls between the ages of 8-20 are the ones who are responsible for getting water,” Peg explains, “they hike up a very steep mountain two to three hours one way, fill their jerry cans, tie them on their back and carry the forty to fifty pounds back to the village. The ropes dig into their shoulders and can cause pelvic and back issues by the time the girls are of child bearing age.” With the new water system, the girls will no longer need to make this traitorous four to six hour journey each day, creating opportunities for education and micro-businesses.

 

The impact of bringing clean water to these communities is really profound. Peg reflects on a conversation with a school principal, “I asked her what difference Run for Water has made in her community.” She laughed and said, “the day the tap turned on, we had 400 girls enter school. We had to hire new teachers, it was a great problem to have.” Peg also describes the powerful story of Mimi and how access to water changed her life. “She planted a garden and started her own store, selling honey,” Peg explains, “its changed the income level of her family.” Mimi’s daughter can also walk to school now, instead of helping her mother gather water for survival. “Water becomes a springboard for opportunity,” Peg tells us, “they start dreaming about a future that was never possible before.”

 

To bring these projects to life, Envision Financial Run for Water partners with Hope International Development Agency, an organization in New Westminster founded in the 1980’s. While Run for Water acts as the storyteller and fundraising mechanism, Hope executes the projects with the local community on the ground. “Everything is done by the people in the village, this gives them ownership,” Peg explains. “The gravity water flow systems are put into place and once the people catch the vision they will work all day in the fields and do the digging at night. They lay the pipes and mix the concrete, and it becomes their water system.” It was a priority for Run for Water to work with an established Canadian organization that had a history of low overhead, Peg explains, “about 95% of every dollar (at Hope) goes toward the water projects.”

 

A focus for Envision Financial Run for Water in the upcoming years will be to engage more schools, sharing the message with youth of what it means to be a global citizen. This past year, Peg has spoken to 10,000 students from Vancouver to Hope. “Kids really want to make a difference in the world,” Peg explains, including the kids who’ve fundraised for Run for Water. From the brother and sister team who walked around a campsite on their vacation hoping to raise $70 by collecting empties (they raised close to $800 after sharing the Run for Water story with their fellow campers) to the nine year old who played his violin at the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and the ten year old who’s donated his birthday money for the past five years. “The kids are the best,” Peg smiles from the stories.

 

Peg currently acts as Executive Director for Envision Financial Run For Water and Ken along with 17 other members form the organizing committee. To participate in Envision Financial Run for Water on May 31, 2015 and become a fundraiser, visit runforwater.ca.

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