How it all began…
Travel can transform us—especially when we step outside of our comfort zone. My fellow Lost Girls (Jen and Amanda) and I volunteered in Kenya through a program called Village Volunteers during our yearlong, round-the-world trip. It was in the small town of Kitale where we lived in a hut without running water or other things I once considered necessities (such as wi-fi!) that I encountered some really amazing people who were changing lives in their communities.
One of those people is a man named Joshua, who welcomed us into his home and who ran a primary school that turned into a boarding school because he refused to turn away orphans or other young girls in need. He gave girls who otherwise would have been out on the streets—or worse—a chance at an education. Then there was Sister Freda, who used her own and her husband Richard’s savings to help the sick in her area who couldn’t afford medical care by starting mobile clinics. Sister Freda said, “Someone has to help them—why shouldn’t it be me?” Now she has started a nursing school to enable other young people in the community help those who are suffering and might otherwise die without their aid. Joshua and Sister Freda inspired me to think that every single one of us has more power to impact our communities—and the world—than I’d ever imagined. If they can do it, why can’t we?
When I returned to New York after my year abroad, I never forgot the girls at Joshua’s school, or kids treated for illnesses such as malaria by Sister Freda’s clinic, who were given a second chance. I started reading books like Half the Sky by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl DuWunn, and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. I kept in touch with Shana Greene, the founder of Village Volunteers. The message of these books was that education was not only the key to overcoming poverty, but also vital for avoiding war. Educated people are less likely to fall prey to fundamentalism. They are more likely to feel empowered and to speak up against injustice. Also, educating girls has been shown to impact entire villages because birth rates decline and they are more likely to spend additional income earned from having a degree on their own children’s education when compared with men. Each additional year of primary school education that a girl gets results in .26 fewer children, according to Half the Sky.
So what can a Lost Girl (or Boy!) do?
After seeing firsthand the benefits of educating girls during my trip, and reading up on the issue upon returning home, I dreamed of getting Lost Girls (and Boys!) involved in making it happen. But the issue seems so big and I didn’t know where to even begin. I kept talking to as many people as I could think of until a fellow LG editor, Nancy Yeomans, pointed out that I like to run and that many organizations use races to fundraise for worthy causes. Suddenly everything fell into place.
I remembered running down muddy dirt roads bordered by sunflowers in Kenya, and passersby stopping to shout, “Sister, where on earth are you running to? What are you training for?” I ran laps around my block as a child, ran my way through neighborhoods around the world, trained for road races such as the New York City marathon. Why not combine something I’m passionate about—training for races to have a healthy goal—with a good cause that would unite Lost Girls everywhere? I wanted the Lost Girls’ fundraising efforts to be fun, and training with other Lost Girls/Boys to get in shape while making a difference is part of what the LG mission is all about: friendship; making time to live a healthy, passionate life; and exploring the world around you. Thus, The Lost Girls Races were born.
I’m thrilled to announce that we have a team of seven guys and girls for the first-ever Lost Girls Race: the Seneca 7. This race is a 77.7 mile relay race around gorgeous Seneca Lake, located in the middle of upstate New York’s wine country, on April 30. I’ll be chronicling everything from how we train, to the money we’ll raise, to getting video of the actual race day. LG editor Nancy also organized another LG team for the Tough Mudder in Vermont the following weekend.
So now we’re turning to all you Lost Girls and Boys who want to get in shape for a good cause: Please participate in a Lost Girls Race by signing up for a race in your area, collecting donations, and sending those donations to Village Volunteers to help educate kids in need. Click here to learn more about how you can get involved, and here to donate with just the click of a button. Happy training!