Runners fund water wells in Kenya
BY SHELBY TANKERSLEY
OU News Bureau
What started as the brainchild of two running enthusiasts has planted over 100 water wells in Kenya.
The Hope Water Project, organized by Kensington Church, uses marathons, triathlons and other races to raise money for the wells. The runners build friendships while training for a big race and the Kenyans in affected areas get safe water.
The church’s eight campuses, even its Florida location, fund the project with donations, runners and races.
“We raise money by running races and use that money to plant water wells in the Pokot tribe in Kenya,” said Greg Gibbs, executive director for Hope Water. “In the process of training for these races, people get life-changing relationships with other participants. And the result of bringing the clean water wells is also life changing for the people over there.”
Gibbs has run with Hope Water several times and has taken the trek to Kenya. Some members go several times a year. Gibbs enjoys meeting the people they’re helping and seeing the joy clean water brings.
“We try to bring spiritual care, education, orphan care and we lift up the place of women in their culture by teaching them skills and helping build their confidence,” he said. “It’s indescribable to go there because I could never understand the emotions they have. I don’t have to walk miles to go get dirty water and then try to boil it so my children don’t get disease.”
He was there once when they broke through ground to make a well.
“Hundreds of people gathered and they danced and sung,” he said. “It was so emotional for everyone, including people like myself who had just a very tiny part in it. As if running wasn’t addictive on its own, running for a cause like this is very addictive.”
One of his favorite parts is the training. The friendships formed on the trail last a long time.
“The first time I ran a marathon was with Hope,” said Ryan McCullough, a past runner and Kensington staff member. “The marathon is so cool. It touches you deeply because of all the hard work.”
McCullough said the marathon makes him re-examine water. While it is mentally and physically exhausting, the runners get water stations every two miles. The very thing they try to provide is given to them without a second thought.
“I can make a small impact, but the job is so big,” he said.
But, to him, it’s fun.
“I love the community aspect of it,” McCullough said. “We spend hours on a trail with people while training. That’s what people have gotten bitten by, I think. We get to do this wonderful thing in Kenya, and it forms a great community here.”
When they run a race, the team all sports the same bright blue shirts with Hope Water in bold letters. They aren’t hard to miss.
“It looks like it’s about marathons and cycle races, but it’s about so much more,” Gibbs said. “The community knows us as the people with the bright blue shirts, but clean water is so much more important than running a race.”
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