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 2010 when I ran the Washington DC Suntrust Marathon, and 2012 when I ran my first trail marathon in Susanville, California. (Susanville was a bit of a torturous event so I do not have pictures)
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 when 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 mom and sister came to visit, we left school early after teaching a class or two to meet them in Bangkok. It was 11 am on a Thursday. A time where, 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). We drove by an elementary school on the way to our apartment and we saw a child in the road who looked about 6 or 7 years old. This child wasn't playing hooky from the elementary school near by. 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 and this small experience struck me (not to mention the thousands of girls and young women working in the sex industry instead of going to school). I worked with an amazing non-profit called Room to Read during my senior year at Cal Poly and planned a fundraiser for them with a few friends last spring. 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 and was impressed by his passion (which led him to quit his exec job with Microsoft to start Room to Read) and purpose. I researched Room to Read and one of their employees came to speak at a conference I helped plan for my senior project. After meeting with someone who actually works for Room to Read, I went full steam ahead in planning a 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.
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. Because I am living so close to three of the countries Room to Read works in, I had planned 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 thought this would be the perfect opportunity to raise more awareness about Room to Read's cause and contribute to their efforts while living and traveling to close to the children that need our help.
I am combining my love of running and reading by racing the Phu Quoc Half Marathon and fundraising for Room to Read in order to instill a passion for reading in children who do not have the same opportunities I had growing up. I will also 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.
So, 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!