Newtownabbey grandmother running 5k a day for Tearfund charity
A Newtownabbey woman has been taking on '5k a day in May' in aid of a global development and aid charity.
Grace Startin, a mother of three and grandmother of four, is a classroom assistant in Methodist College Belfast.
She is part of a team virtually running every day in May in support of Tearfund, a charity which is responding to the impact of Covid-19 on people living in poverty.
A keen athlete and member of the County Antrim Harriers, Grace says the social side of running is what she values most. "I mostly run with my friend Marian, who is also going to do 5km a day throughout May," she added. "The hardest part of this challenge is motivating myself when there’s no company to run with and when it’s cold and wet!"
Clocking up 155km over the course of the month, Grace has already raised almost £700 for Tearfund.
Altogether, the group of 33 members is covering the distance between Belfast and the very tip of North Africa - a distance of 3,290km.
Running mainly in Northern Ireland with a few international participants in Malaysia, Lincolnshire and Geneva, they hope to raise a total of £20,000 for Tearfund - which could help up to 1,200 families living in poverty with health training and food support as they await safe access to a Covid-vaccine.
Thousands 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.
Glen Mitchell, Tearfund’s NI Director, said: "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.
Grace added: "It’s good to see things returning to some sort of normality here, but we’ve been focusing on climate change at church and how it has the greatest impact on those who have done the least to cause it. It makes me see how important it is to continue to support those who live in poverty around the world, especially now as they also struggle with the added devastation of Covid-19.
"We can only imagine how they struggle to survive. It also makes me think of how important it is to have strong courageous leaders who want the best for their countries and their people and are willing to make a stand to ensure they receive the best possible chance at life and have hope for a better future for their children."
It was Grace's daughter, Lydia, who brought the challenge to her attention. "She has recently joined the Tearfund team in Belfast and thought it was something I’d be interested in. I thought 5km per day should easily be doable - perhaps a little foolishly now that I look back! Recently, at church, we have been discussing what we can do to live up to our biblical mandate to challenge injustice. It got me thinking that the small changes I can make may massively improve the life of someone in an economically poorer country. I hope by supporting Tearfund we can bring about long-lasting change which will benefit those who are in greatest need around the world. Running 5km a day is not much of a hardship by comparison!"
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’.
To make a donation in support of Tearfund’s work responding to coronavirus around the world and support Grace's running challenge, visit her Justgiving page at https://justgiving.com/fundraising/Grace-Startin