Running for their lives 

Locals aid poverty-afflicted Rwandans with a race

click to enlarge Steves church pal Corb, with Rwandan guide Gad.
  • Steves church pal Corb, with Rwandan guide Gad.

Editor's note: This story was updated for factual accuracy at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 1.

Rwanda, a tiny country nestled between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Tanzania, remains most famous for genocide.

In 1994, between April and July, Hutu militia killed 800,000 Tutsis, the historically elite minority tribe in Africa's Congo region, while the West did nothing to stop the slaughter. After the "100 Days of Terror" were over, no thanks to the United Nations, a multi-ethnic government came to power, and the two tribes began rebuilding their bloodied nation.

Today, though afflicted by poverty, Rwanda is one of Africa's safest countries.

"Many Rwandan victims' families live side-by-side with their family members' murderers in forgiveness and friendship," according to literature of the International Anglican Church of Colorado Springs. The church, which has a sister church in Rwanda, has organized a 5K race to build a health clinic and school in Kibali, an impoverished farming community in rural Byumba, a province hit hard by 1994's killings.

Steve Flannery, International Anglican Church of Colorado Springs member and lifetime runner, has organized the 5K with help from corporate sponsors, church members and local volunteers. As locals line up here in the Springs, runners will also begin a race in Byumba.

"Some of us who went to Rwanda last summer spent quite a bit of time running with the locals, and one day, the idea for a joint fundraising race just popped into my head," Flannery says.

Flannery and the local organizers understand that many people shy away from fundraising events, particularly those organized by churches sending money to foreign countries. But, he says, "We are raising the money, then going to Africa and giving it to the Rwandans. ... There's no middleman getting in the way."

This event also differs from others, Flannery proposes, because there is a direct, special relationship between his church and the Rwandan Anglican Church.

"They reached out to us spiritually," he says, alluding to the Rwandan Anglican Church's establishment of the International Anglican Church of Colorado Springs seven years ago. "Now we're reaching out to them physically."

Race organizers hope to start at least 250 runners this weekend, and would like to raise between $8,000 and $10,000 toward the half million needed to complete the clinic. The amazing thing, says Flannery, is that "it takes so little to do so much."


Run for Rwanda
Cottonwood Creek Park, 7040 Rangewood Drive
Saturday, Aug. 2, 8 a.m.; race-day registration opens at 6:30 a.m.
Entry fee: $20, $25 on race day, with decreasing fees for those collecting sponsorships; call 592-1632 or visit runforrwanda.org for more.


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