Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Face of Prevention: A Guest Post by Jade Keller

Hi everyone! My name is Jade. Jo so very graciously invited me to do a guest post about my experiences working with The SOLD Project to combat human trafficking. First, I want to thank her for the opportunity to share some of my experiences. Also, I just want to thank you all for your interest in combating this terrible injustice and for your efforts to help support Love 146 and the other organizations with which they’re partnered.

When we talk about the millions of children trafficked, our eyes glaze over because we can’t comprehend the numbers and we can’t comprehend the truth of each life and what each child goes through in the trajectory of their lives. Our organization focuses on prevention for a lot of reasons like “stop it before it happens.” But the truth is, for these kids, trafficking doesn’t begin with abduction or the first time they’re forced. It doesn’t even begin with the initial deceit. It begins long before that.

In northern Thailand, one of the principle causes of trafficking is poverty, where kids are lured to the big city with promises of well-paying jobs and money to support their families. The kids we identify as being at-risk all come from impoverished circumstances, and most have other hurdles: alcoholic or drug-addicted parents, abusive homes, etc. I can’t tell you every kid’s story. But I will tell you one.

I’ll call him Nong.

He came to the resource center,one of the new children in need of a scholarship, polite, humble, and shy. He didn’t speak any English, so my usual ice-breaker (a game of Hangman) wouldn’t work. So I invited him to draw with me, an activity I found I could do with the kids that transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries. His face lit up at the invitation and he immediately set out to draw pictures of his favorite football players, then copying covers of children’s magazines. By the time the other kids arrived, we were wrist-deep in pencil markings and eraser sheddings.

Later, he would hop on a bike and play with the other kids, while I heard his story. It began with his mother,who had been raped and contracted HIV from the rapist. She didn’t know she was HIV-positive until six months into her pregnancy, and so passed the disease onto her baby Nong. She managed to marry another man, and when she told him she had HIV, he said he didn’t care. He said he loved her, and that he would die with her. They had a second child together, a daughter. Due to precautions, this time, she was able to have this daughter without passing HIV on to her. But they were incredibly poor. So when she couldn’t afford to send both her children to school, she chose to give the money and the education to her daughter, the one who wasn’t sick.

And so, a terrible twist of fate, an impossible decision, and here this little boy is. His mother died six years ago, and now he lives with his grandmother. With most of the kids, my concern is figuring ways to encourage them to stay in school. With this kid, it was gift for him to be able to go to school at all.

We were able to secure a scholarship for him, so that at the age of 13, he has the chance to go to school for the first time. He glows with the innocent excitement of getting his first school uniform. As we gave him a ride home after English lessons on Saturday, we asked him if he enjoyed his time there. He nodded shyly. We asked if he wanted to come again. His face split open in a wide grin and his nod was vigorous.

His smile is one I never forgot.

So the issue of prevention is not just about making sure kids never fall into the awful fate of sexual slavery. It’s about giving them a chance for life they might not otherwise have. This child, Nong, who otherwise might never have gone to school, was on a path where his lack of education would have left him no skills to sell, only his body. We can’t save him from his disease, but we hope we can give him a chance for a richer and fuller life for the days he has here with us.

When you run, know you’re running for kids like Nong too.  

I blog at Tasting Grace (http://jadekeller.com). If you’re interested to learn more about the issue or to hear about my experiences on the ground, please join me there for the week of March 5-9. I’ll be doing a series of posts highlighting some of things I’ve learned since I got here. Hope you’ll join me there!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Her first half marathon: a guest post by Rebekah

I'm delighted to share with you today a guest post by my lovely friend Rebekah. She just completed her first half marathon a couple of weeks ago, running in support of Love146. I hope you'll find her story both encouraging and inspirational, just as I did. Thanks, Rebekah!

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I did it!

I ran 13.1 miles and lived to tell about it!

In fact, I ran 13.1 miles in considerably less time than I expected to. My goal was simply to finish. Other goals included not meeting any paramedics along the way, not getting picked up by the pace car and, most importantly, to bring attention to a cause.

Joanne challenged us to run and spread the word about Love146. I have and am continuing to do so. Though I wasn't able to wear my shirt – temps were too hot for the long-sleeves – I have and do wear it when I'm running around town and I've placed donation envelopes at my husband's office.

Last year I set some goals for myself and this race was a big one. The Atlanta Track Club posed a question on Facebook today: “As a runner, it is so important to set goals. Let us know what you're ultimate running goal is, whether it's a certain distance, race, or PR. And press "Like" if you are confident that one day you will achieve it!” My answer was: “The best part about running is that you can always set a new goal! PR, log so many miles in a year/lifetime, longer distance, etc.. Running is for movers and shakers, baby! I set and met my half-marathon goal last month which I thought was my ultimate goal. Time for a new goal!”
I have an added motivation to running now. But it's not just about measurable goals. Running is for my physical, mental and emotional health, for my future, for an example and to see these same things happen for the millions of people currently living in slavery. Physical, mental and emotional health. Freedom.

You can do it, y'all! I know you're training. If you've never done something this big before you're thinking, “Holy crap! That's a long way!” And it is. But I did it and so can you.
I didn't start running consistently until January of last year. This time last year I could barely run a mile and a half without being really winded. I definitely wasn't running faster than 4 miles an hour. After running for 3 months I participated in a 5k race and finished in 31:30 and a year later I've run a half-marathon.

And just like you can finish this race (whichever it might be), you can be a part of something bigger. One person at a time bringing awareness about an incredible injustice, a horrible reality, and supporting change.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In which we are all winners, but only one person gets the free tee shirt

We have a winner! The Run for their Lives tech tee goes to Jo N.!! (A totally different Jo--not me--of course. And I promise the drawing was random and I wasn't showing name favoritism....) And really, I think you're ALL winners. You just don't all get a cool tee shirt like Jo does.

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Also? It's not too late to join us in the 146-mile challenge at Dailymile. A couple of rock star runners have already completed the challenge (give it up for Sue H.!), and a few have broken the 100 mile mark. But remember--this isn't about how quickly we can tally 146 miles. It's about getting there mindfully, with the abolitionist cause in mind, about giving some meaning to our training and encouraging each other along the way. So no matter whether you'll be walking, jogging or running, no matter how long it might take you to log 146 miles, I encourage you to join in!

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We're just a month away now from the DC Rock n Roll Marathon & Half Marathon and the Los Gatos St. Patrick's Day Run! I'm equal parts excited about the race and paranoid about getting injured/sick given my less than stellar track record. It's funny because on my very rough "editorial calendar" for this blog, (and by "editorial calendar"  I mean the sticky note that's no longer sticky where I scribbled some ideas back in 2011), I had jotted down the topics of injury prevention and staying healthy. And now I feel as if writing about those subjects would be akin to asking the universe to flood my house with wintery germs and my running path with big ol' rocks on which to trip and otherwise torment my joints.

So if it's okay with you all, I'll just ask you for YOUR tips on staying healthy and injury-free during training. Do you have any for me? Leave 'em in the comments so we can all benefit from your sage advice. Or, if you have questions, leave those too, and I'll do my best to answer.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Get in Gear: Part II

Remember that one time, about five hundred days ago, when I promised to "write more soon" about getting in gear? Yeah, so I guess "soon" is a relative term. To the hundreds of you out there who were holding your breath waiting for the next installment of The Average Jo's Guide to Running, take a deep breath in, then exhale, releasing all the toxins of bitterness and resentment toward me for making you hold your breath for two weeks.

Anyway, let's talk some more about gear, shall we?

App-tly Equipped

Whether you're looking to start running, keep running, or rant about how you hate running, yes, there's an app for that. Thousands of them, I'd guess. I've highlighted below a few of the apps I've found useful.
  • Electric Miles (Free): Whether you're using Dailymile to track your mileage, to participate in the 146 mile challenge, or to connect with other athletes and runners, you might be looking for an easy way to enter your mileage on your phone. Well, look no further. Electric Miles is an app that allows you to log in to your Dailymile account and add workouts easily from your phone. The functionality is more limited than the Dailymile website, but I find it helpful for logging my workouts right after I complete them. (Because by the time I get home and in a place where I can sit down to log a workout, I've generally forgotten the details of my distance and paces.)
  • RunKeeper (Free): I downloaded this app a year ago, but admittedly haven't used it much as I prefer to run without my phone. For the price, I suppose I'm still getting my money's worth. RunKeeper will track your route, time and distance with GPS, and allows you to store your workouts within the app.
  • Runner's PaceCalc (Free): I probably should be embarrassed by how much I love this app. Because it's a calculator. I'm assuming the cool kids love apps like Angry Birds or Shazam, but definitely not calculators. I mostly use this app to obsess over how fast I might be able to run a 10k if I ran it at the same pace I just ran a 1600m rep. Or what the minute per mile pace would be to qualify for Boston in my age bracket. (Never mind that I've never run a marathon, nor am I signed up to run one, nor do I have any hope of qualifying for Boston if I spend more time daydreaming with a calculator than I do actually running.)
  •  Couch to 5k ($2.99): I haven't actually used this app myself, but I've heard nothing but great things. If you're thinking about doing the C25K program, this app might be just what you need to help you get started and stay on track. 
I know I haven't even scratched the surface on all of the apps out there for runners of all levels. If you have an app you've found useful, please share it with us in the comments below!

{More on gear to come soon...ish. We still need to cover winter gear--preferably before winter is over--and talk more about hydration belts. And if there's any other gear you're curious about that we haven't talked about yet, leave me a question in the comments below, and I'll be sure to address it.}

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Don't forget--the Run for their Lives tee-shirt give-away is underway! Your donation to Love146 in any amount--no matter how small or large--enters you to win. So click on over and help us make a difference in the battle against child sex slavery and exploitation. Thank you so much!