After getting one marathon under my belt, I've decided that I'd like run one each year -- for at least as long as I can. The next one is the Cleveland Marathon which is on Sunday, May 18th. While training last year for the Columbus Marathon I was always reminded of how lucky I am to have my health and the means to train for a Marathon...it is a disciplined, but also a bit of a selfish endeavor.
So moving forward, I've decided to use my running to raise awareness about issues and to raise money for charity. I don't know if I'll pick a different charity for each race or keep raising money for the same one. That decision is tbd.
I thought that finding a charity would be easy -- I wanted to find one working to prevent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Some of you may be asking what is that? How many people does it affect? Why should I care about this practice?
Female Genital Mutilation is the very painful rite of passage mostly practiced in Africa, but also in some Asian, Middle Eastern and even in Western Countries within new immigrant populations. It is most often conducted in an unsanitary environment with instruments such as a sharp rock, piece of glass or a razor blade. In some countries, they just excise part of the clitoris and in others they excise the entire clitoris -- which is anatomically equivalent to removing the entire penis -- or they excise the clitoris along along with all the outer female genitalia.
It is estimated that between 100 to 140 million women have undergone FGM. This practice can frequently lead to long term infection, contributes to the spread of STDs, causes cysts, long term emotional and physical pain and sometimes can lead to death. And in Mali, the common consequences of this procedure are: very slow childbirth (as scar tissue doesn't stretch), tearing at childbirth which leading to infections and problems of childbirth fever (which kills).
Many people who practice this custom do not associate the physical ailments associated with FGM to the actual procedure but assume that the girl or woman is going through them due to bad luck or to punish them for some misdeed.
Through my research on FGM, I've found very few charities that actual fund programs to prevent FGM -- and I was shocked by this. I found a small charity in Mali -- Joliba Trust -- that educates people about the harmful affects of FGM along with other development projects like helping provide clean water, food security, midwifery training and other long-term development projects.
For the Cleveland Marathon, my goal is to raise $2,000 for Joliba Trust. And giving is just an easy click on their website on their donation page. Caroline Hart, the trustee of Joliba Trust is going to help me track the donations -- since they'll be coming in from the US. I hope that you'll join me in helping this organization -- a few dollars will go a very long way in Mali -- so give what you can -- even if it is just $15 to $20. A very small percentage of this organization's fundraising goes towards administrative costs -- they do a great job at reducing overhead which enables donations to go directly to implementing programs in Mali.