I’ve come to find that progress is a continual thing. It isn’t a complete entity, it’s an ongoing process, be this in the country in which we live in, or for the world as a whole. I count myself lucky to have grown up in a society, that, whilst it may have its flaws, ultimately, it works. It aims to allow individuals the freedom of modern life, and offers children the right to a state education, regardless of background or gender. Although, even with this being said it’s easy to forget the journey of the developing world in which we’re lucky to live daily. The reality of this progress can reach much further than the boundaries of our own postcode, and if we have the ability to do so, it’s important to try and spread this as far as we can.
In May I’ll be heading out to Sierra Leone to run 26.2 miles of the marathon, and show my support for the work being done in West Africa by the charity Street Child. Street Child aim to create educational opportunity for some of the world’s most vulnerable children, with the belief that every child deserves the right to be empowered through education. Working directly with children either living or working on the streets in Africa, they reunite children with their families, reintroduce them back into education, and work to create a sustainable home life for the future.
As well as their continued work with vulnerable children throughout Africa, the focus for the charity over the next 12 months will be driven by their most recent campaign, Girls Speak Out. Girls Speak Out aims to ensure that 20,000 female children can go to school in a safe environment, and stay there. It will essentially offer girls across Sierra Leone the chance to have a voice, and to ensure that the gendered issues they face can’t be ignored. In learning of the work that Street Child do in West Africa, my eyes have admittedly been opened up to facts that were a little hard to digest at first, but outside of my own sensitivity, need to be learned about.
Some of the hardest hitting realities for me are that girls rarely stay in education past primary years, and if they do, it isn’t necessarily the safe haven that I personally relate to my childhood and years as a teen. In return for the rarity of an education many girls often have to pay to have exams and papers marked, be this in money or sex. And for those not able to afford the at times juxtaposed ‘luxury’ of going to school, many children are expected to work at home, on the streets, or agree reluctantly to early marriage.
Despite these culturally engrained factors, Street Child aim to empower girls against these social elements. Here are just a number of the points that their ongoing projects aim to tackle, creating change in the following ways –
- Target support for 500 pregnant teenagers, with a direct focus on their ongoing education and child’s development
- Educate parents to recognise their daughter’s right to education, and to a childhood free form adult pressures of money and sex
- Fund teacher training – with a specific focus on gender sensitivity and accountability
- Ensure that girls going to school are staying put. In turn, helping girl’s families to create secure businesses that will fund their child’s education long into the future
Whilst I’m in west Africa I’m hoping to spend some time meeting the girls and children out there, potentially showing them how I’ve used running as a tool, socially, mentally and physically. To share my stories, and my culture in return for learning about theirs.
I’m admittedly hoping I don’t melt in the marathon, but I’ll be finishing regardless. If you would like to show some support in helping me to fundraise, you can sponsor me here. Any help is massively appreciated. Or, if you fancy an African adventure, and would like to join me in Sierra Leone to run 10k, half marathon, or full marathon distance, you can use the discount code SORRELL50 for £50 off these race packages, and project visits combined, and come on an adventure with me.
Photography – Mark Gillett