Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Run Vietnam for Global Literacy

This is a guest post by Sister2, who now lives in Thailand and is teaching English to high school kids. She's writing a blog of her travels, and I will be cross-posting her running blogs here on Eat Run Read as her half-marathon training continues through the winter and spring.

Two things I love: running and reading. For those that don't know, I come from a family of runners and  am the offspring of two awesome marathoning parents. I have considered myself a runner since I was a fifth grader competing in the Petaluma West Side Relays.

Fast forward about ten years later to 2009 when I ran the Boston Marathon (my first marathon). Then I ran the Washington DC Suntrust Marathon in 2010, and most recently I ran my first trail marathon in Susanville, California, in 2012.

More important and older than my running identity is my identity as a reader. My sisters and I were almost excessively read to from babyhood to young adulthood and we loved it. There was no stopping us once we learned to read, and I have been a reader ever since.

So what does this have to do with Thailand and my travels?

When Eric's [Editor's note: Eric is Sister2's boyfriend who is in Thaliand as well.] mom and sister came to visit, we left school early to meet them in Bangkok. It was 11 am on a Thursday. A time when, in the US, absolutely every child is sitting in a classroom or playing at recess unless their parents are letting them play hooky (like my mom did from time to time to take us to museums and art exhibits in San Francisco [or to ski well duh!]). We drove by an elementary school on the way to our apartment and we saw a child in the road who looked to be about 6 or 7 years old. This child wasn't playing hooky. He was walking through traffic selling flowers -- he was working.

Now Thailand is by no means a developing country, but it still has work to do in its education system and getting all children into school (not to mention the huge problem of thousands of girls and young women working in the sex industry instead of going to school).

Seeing the boy selling flowers in the street struck me. I worked with an amazing non-profit called Room to Read during my senior year at Cal Poly and planned a fundraiser for them last spring. Room to Read promotes literacy and gender equality by working with local partners to provide books/uniform/transportation/school fees, build schools and libraries, and encourage girls' participation in education. Room to Read currently works in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Tanzania, Zambia, and South Africa and will continue to increase their impact in other countries when the time is right.

I learned about Room to Read while I was studying abroad and traveling in India. I read the founder's book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World [so did I -- review here] and was impressed by his passion (which led him to quit his executive job with Microsoft to start Room to Read) and purpose. I asked one of their employees came to speak at a conference I helped plan for my senior project, and then I went full-steam ahead in planning a bigger fundraiser, and am now almost (or completely) annoyingly passionate about this organization.

Room to Read has impacted the lives of over 6.7 million children and is not going to stop any time soon. Check out this video to see what Room to Read accomplished in 2012 due to support from people like you and me, local communities in the countries they work in, and Room to Read employees.

Because I am living so close to three of the countries Room to Read works in, I plan on visiting a few schools while I am on this side of the world. I don't really enjoy traveling as a standard tourist and prefer to do something to be more involved. I want to instill a passion for reading in children who do not have the same opportunities I had growing up.

So here's the plan:

  • I am combining my love of running and reading and racing the Phu Quoc Half Marathon on an island in Vietnam to raise money for Room to Read. 
  • I will visit Room to Read's schools when traveling in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos so I can report back to my supporters on where their money is going and the difference they are making. 
  • I plan on blogging about my training progress regularly, so check back to see how I am doing and learn more about Room to Read. 
Phl Quoc Island, where I will run my half marathon. 

If you received an education as a child (and I know you all did), please visit my fundraising page here to make your donation. A little really goes a long way on this side of the world, so no donation is too small. I am, however, challenging everyone to donate at least $13 to represent the number of miles I will be running to support literacy in May. You can also visit my Run Vietnam for Literacy facebook page to learn more.

Thank you thank you thank you for your support! As Room to Read says: "World Change Starts with Educated Children." Let's help change the world one book and one mile at a time!