SARA Braganza, from Ballymena, and husband Ricardo, from London, are running 155km in May.
They are currently based in Malaysia, but are part of a team virtually running the equivalent distance of Belfast to Northern Africa in 31 days
Funds raised are going to international relief and development charity Tearfund as it responds to the impact of Covid-19 on people living in poverty
Over a year after the first lockdown in Northern Ireland, many are still making an effort to get out and exercise regularly.
This month, a group of people from around the country have decided to make their work-outs matter for those who need it most, by running in support of international relief development charity, Tearfund.
Sara (nee Calderwood) and Ricardo will be running 5km each day while currently teaching in Malaysia. Sara teaches Reception-aged children and Ricardo teaches maths to secondary students.
“Running in Malaysia has certainly been hot, humid and sweaty’, Sara says, “But it is a worthy challenge. My husband and I don't run regularly so it has been good to spend time working on our stamina, especially in a hot climate.
“Running has also many mental health benefits and as we are in Lockdown #3 here in Malaysia, it is good to get outside and go for a run to clear the head.”
The pair have been in Malaysia since 2019.
The group of 33 members is together covering the distance between Belfast and the very tip of North Africa - 3,290 kms, over the month of May.
Running mainly in Northern Ireland with a few international participants in Malaysia, Lincolnshire and Geneva, they hope to raise £20,000 for Tearfund - which could help up to 1,200 families living in poverty with health and hygiene training and food support as they await safe access to a Covid-vaccine.
Millions of people in Northern Ireland are now partially or fully vaccinated. But for billions of people around the world, a vaccine is still a long way off.
It is estimated that amongst people living in poverty, only 1 in 10 will access a safe vaccine this year; with most others having to wait until next year or even 2023 before they are able to.
Sara says, ‘Covid-19 has affected so many people around the world in many different ways. From the loss of jobs to the loss of loved ones, it has been a very difficult time for many.
“We are both fortunate that we have been able to work from home and that our families are safe. We feel it is so important to help others in need, especially during this difficult time.
“To raise money for food to feed families and to support those in need of imminent healthcare is something we should all consider doing if we can.’
Glen Mitchell, Tearfund’s NI Director, says: “We talk about the pandemic being a storm we are all experiencing, but in very different boats. This inequality has never been more evident than when it comes to the access to Covid-19 vaccines.
“Those of us who live in countries with enough resource to purchase ample doses of the vaccine are often also those who can afford to social distance and freely access things like clean water or soap.
“For many people living in poverty, going to work in crowded spaces is their only chance at putting food on the table for their families. Still others, in refugee camps for example, have no way of isolating.
“Many others have to walk for miles in order to access clean water, which they then have to ration through the day,’ he added.
“Tearfund's core values are centred around compassion and being servant-hearted,” notes Sara.
“The work that they have done and continue to do to help those in poverty or in the face of natural disasters is humbling.
“We had heard of the 5km a day in May challenge through word of mouth and wanted to be part of it to help families.
“To know that £17 can provide a family with health and hygiene training and food support for 2 months whilst they wait for the vaccine, really motivated us to jump on board and do our bit to help!
“For over 50 years, Tearfund has walked alongside communities around the world as they respond to disasters, including supporting people living with HIV and those affected by recent Ebola outbreaks. Tearfund helps communities to recover and create a more resilient 'new normal’.
“And now, Tearfund is working through local partners in more than 50 countries where the most vulnerable people need help with emergency food and hygiene supplies before, during and after Covid-19 vaccines become available.
“Tearfund is playing a vital role by preventing the spread of the virus through improved hygiene and sanitation and supporting our locally based partners and churches to m
“ake a meaningful, sustained response. While people are waiting for access to the vaccination, it is important to act to mitigate the spread of the virus and its impacts.
The aid and development organisation is also working to spread accurate information about Covid-19 vaccines. ‘Alongside our work tackling poverty, we are also helping church leaders and organisations to use their influence to build a good understanding of the Covid-19 vaccines and help shape and support vaccination programmes that are good for society, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalised.”
From the support she and Ricardo have received, Sara is encouraged: “We have been blown away by the generosity of our friends and family during our 5km a day in May challenge.
“It has also been great to be part of a community with others who are also completing the challenge.
“The simple words of encouragement and opportunity for accountability with pictures and Strava screenshots has really helped to spur us both on each day for our next run.
“The Tearfund staff have provided helpful tips and cheered us on every step of the way!”
To make a donation in support of Tearfund’s work responding to coronavirus around the world and support Sara and Ricardo’s running challenge, visit their Justgiving page at https://justgiving.com/