Stafford, VA, September 27, 2013—The annual Go for Bo! 5K Run and 1 Mile Fun Run/Tot Dash is happening at 8:00 am, October 12, 2013 at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Stafford to raise money for Helping Children Worldwide, the organization that funds the Child Rescue Center and Mercy Hospital in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
About the Mission
Helping Children Worldwide (www.helpingchildrenworldwide.org) , is a 501c3 nonprofit organization headquartered in Chantilly, VA, which funds the Child Rescue Center and Mercy Hospital in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
The seeds for Helping Children Worldwide were planted in 1999, when Sierra Leone was in the midst of a devastating civil war that left thousands of children orphaned. To keep the kids off the streets and away from the warring factions, The Child Rescue Center (CRC) opened its doors in a town called Bo on July 4, 2000.
Bo is located in one of the poorest regions of the world. It is a place where there is no air conditioning, and no washers and dryers. Electricity is spotty. Water is not always clean, and the roads tend to be rutted dirt paths. Many kids have nothing more than underwear to walk around in.
In time, the Civil War in Sierra Leone ended and the war orphans began to grow up, move on, and lead productive adult lives. The CRC began to feel like an empty nest: a big facility for needy kids with a strong support network. It was time to adjust the mission.
Lara Brittain is a Stafford resident and member of Ebenezer United Methodist Church who has traveled to the CRC several times and has served as a mission team leader and Vice Chairperson of the CRC. Brittain says that as the war ended, the CRC approached its partners in Sierra Leone to ask how they could serve the children of the country.
The Sierra Leoneans told the CRC about child trafficking. Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. According to Helping Children Worldwide, in Sierra Leone, 59% of children aged 5-14 are engaged in child labor, and 71% of those working kids are subject to exploitative labor or trafficking. Kids in Sierra Leone may be compelled to work in vending, mining, domestic service, farming or the sex trade.
The Sierra Leoneans knew child trafficking was a problem, but they did not have a place to send the children, even if they could save them.
With this news, Brittain said, the CRC changed its mission and began helping victims of child trafficking. Kids usually come to the CRC though a referral process: someone will provide a tip to child welfare about an at-risk child, or a child who is being forced to work. Once a child is identified, the staff goes through a series of steps to be sure of the situation, and to try to search for family members.
If the situation warrants, the child will be brought to the CRC to figure out his physical, emotional and educational needs. In the meantime, the staff works to locate family, who may not even know what has happened to the child. There are several different programs for the kids: they can go into full-time residential care, community child support or foster care.
The community child support program offers financial support to the child's caregiver so that the family can be well-supported while the youngster attends school. In Africa, children may have to walk several miles to attend school, but it is a treasured privilege to do so.
In addition to her work with the CRC, Brittain is the choir director at Forest Park High School and also at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Stafford. She said that the first time she visited Sierra Leone, she was overwhelmed by the poverty. Although the kids at the CRC were well cared-for, the overall level of need was heartbreaking.
When she was waiting for her return flight home, she sat in the airport, visibly upset. The stranger sitting across from her asked her what was wrong, and she told her story.
"Well," the stranger told her, "Imagine there were many doors and they all needed paint, but you've only got one pot of paint, and you've only got one brush. You can splash a little bit of paint on each door, or you can take your pot and you can really paint one door."
The stranger's words stuck with Brittain. Now that she has returned to Bo several times, she has seen the cumulative effect of her one painted door plus the single doors that others have painted, and of "helping someone to pick up their own pot of paint." Over time, all the painted doors are beginning to add up to real change in Sierra Leone.
About Mercy Hospital
Mercy Hospital is located next to the Child Rescue Center in Bo. It got its start as a result of members of Helping Children Worldwide observing the dire need for medical services. Sierra Leone has a high rate of malaria and one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. One in five children will not live to see their fifth birthday.
To better support the community, Helping Children Worldwide established Mercy Hospital in 2007. The facility serves everyone, regardless of ability to pay. Today, the hospital has electricity only through generators that do not operate at night. Stafford resident Karen Hall, who works as an OB/Gyn nurse at Women's Health and Surgery in Stafford, has traveled to Bo several times. When in country, she works in the prenatal unit at Mercy Hospital.
Hall once delivered a baby at Mercy Hospital at night, without electricity, by the light of a lamp.
Mercy Hospital doesn't have an operating room, so if a mother comes in and needs an emergency C-section, she will have to travel to the nearest hospital over bumpy dirt roads to get it.
In addition to seeing patients at the hospital itself, the medical staff takes trips into nearby villages. Women walk for miles to get care and medicine for their children. In Bo, parents cannot get prescriptions called in or pick up Motrin at 2am from an all-night pharmacy. There, antibiotics save lives, and it is worth walking five miles, carrying a sick child, to get them.
Although Hall says she was uncomfortable from the moment she stepped off the plane, she began to adjust after a few days. The women of Sierra Leone amazed her. "With all the worries, they live each day to the fullest and support each other...their lives are just about surviving."
Eventually, Hall even became accustomed to the unique smell of Bo, which began to permeate all of her belongings. When she went home, she was too overwhelmed and exhausted to unpack right away. Sometime later, she unzipped the bag from Bo, and the smell of Africa wafted out, bringing back a flood of memories and emotions. "At that point," Hall said, "I knew my life was changed forever."
About the Run
The third-annual 5k run to benefit Helping Children Worldwide, the CRC and Mercy Hospital will be held at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in North Stafford on October 12. The one-mile fun run starts at 8am, and the 5k starts at 8:30.
"Not everybody can go to Sierra Leone, and not everybody has money to give," Brittain said. "But one of my favorite parts about Go for Bo is that what I can do is walk. Don't get intimidated by the fact that you think it's a run. It's just a Go. Go however you want."
The event will feature music, and a post-race Pancake Breakfast. Prizes will be awarded to the top 3 overall male and female runners. All early registrants will get a technical dri-fit race shirt. The run starts and finishes at Ebenezer United Methodist Church (161 Embrey Mill Rd. Stafford, VA). Kids and strollers are welcome. Advance registration (before October 9) for the 5k is only $25, and the one-mile/tot dash is just $10.
For more information, go to http://ebenezerumc.org/goforbo
For more information, contact race director Bryan Jones at 540-446-6613, or race communications director Valerie Webber at 703-622-4957.