Taking the Plunge

I’ve always been an athlete. Running came first, and volleyball came second. So, naturally, running a marathon [and finishing victoriously] has always been at the top of my bucket list.


“Taking the Plunge“

I’ve always been an athlete. Running came first, and volleyball came second. So, naturally, running a marathon [and finishing victoriously] has always been at the top of my bucket list. After talking about it for the last ten years, I figured:


1) I’m 28 and certainly not getting any younger; and 2) There comes a time when you’ve got to walk the walk. So I took the plunge. {If you’re wondering what the heck this has to do with rescuing child slaves in Ghana….rest assured, there is a point].

I signed up for the 2011 Atkinson Toyota B/CS Marathon + Half Marathon. In three months I’d be running 26.2 miles. I’m not going to lie, I was mortified. What if I couldn’t finish? All of my peers and coworkers would be watching. But, there was no backing out.

“We need to stop plotting the course and instead just land the plane on our plans to make a difference by getting the “do” part of faith. That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it – or keep planning for it. Simply put: Love does.”

A few weeks before the race, registered runners were to pick up our number ID/badge along with shirts and a bunch of other really cool [and free] marathon paraphernalia. What I’d found in the bag literally changed my life. After digging through the bag of goodies [like a kid on Christmas day], I came across what looked like a post card. It read “Mercy Project.”

My first thought was, “What the heck is Mercy Project? And who is this beautiful kid named Tomas?” The name Mercy Project sounded familiar, so I went home and googled it. I learned Chris Field was the founder of not only the B/CS marathon, but additionally, the founder of Mercy Project. Mercy Project’s mission: to help bring freedom and hope to the estimated 7,000 children trapped in slavery in Ghana, Africa.



Modern Day Slavery

Today, in Ghana, thousands of children work as slaves in the fishing industry. There, on the largest man-made lake in the world, these children work up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week. They scoop water out of leaking boats, paddle, and haul in large nets. The children are as young as five years old, and the work is cruel and unforgiving. Most of the children have seen or known other children that have drowned in the murky waters of the huge lake. The children are underfed, over worked, and many don’t even have a full set of clothes.

“It’s not uncommon to see children completely naked and working tirelessly in the back of a fishing boat,” Field said. “Their dignity is stolen right along with their freedom.”

Root of the Problem

Field says the underlying root of the problem was an economic one. “Mothers get tired of watching their children starve, so often times, they’ll give them up to a relative, or someone they hope can take better care of them. For as little as $20, the mothers are often unknowingly selling the children into modern day slavery. This human trafficking is a vicious cycle that plagues Ghana and many other places around the world.” It’s also an economic issue for the fishermen who own the children. Using the children to fish is currently the cheapest option. “To fix this problem, to really fix it forever and not just put a band-aid on it, we have to teach the fisherman a new way to fish,” Field said. “And we also have to give the mothers viable, sustainable economic alternatives to selling their starving children. This is a problem that must be attacked from both ends with passion, imagination, and fortitude. We’re going to be working in Ghana a long time, and we’re okay with that because we think that’s what it’s going to take to bring real change.” Mercy Project exists because of kids like Tomas. He’s a child slave. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Slavery. Children sold into slavery. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. What kind of bubble have I been living in? And furthermore, how can I get involved?

“I can’t make a real need matter listening to a story, wearing a bracelet, or reading a website and collecting information; I need to “pick a fight” and run barefoot towards it.” –Bob Goff

I originally registered for the marathon to thin out my bucket list [as I can imagine, I’m sure many others did too.] But after picking up what I initially thought to be a postcard, my direction and overall reason for running took a different route. I was no longer running for me. I was running for Tomas. Here’s a picture from last year’s race. From left to right. News 3’s Daniel Armbruster and myself. It took 4.5 hours to run 26.2 miles. I’d say that’s not too shabby for not training! Hah!



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