Andrea Natalie & Friends via Crowdrise
October 20, 2014
BENEFITING: US Association for UNHCR
EVENT DATE: Oct 19, 2014
For most runners, just completing a half marathon is a tremendous achievement. For us however, this race has meant so much more than a finisher metal and a pat on the back. The commitment to participate in this race has always been about the lives we have aimed to save along the way.
There have been very few prolonged periods of peace in Iraq over the last several decades. More than one million Iraqi's have been displaced this year, half within the last couple of weeks, as violence continues to escalate. We felt powerless over the unprecedented atrocities unfolding in Iraq, and wanted to do something to provide aid and protection to the innocent men, women and children that were torn from their homes and families, in order to survive. We kept searching for different ways to help, but couldn't help but feel discouraged. How could one person possibly make a difference as the perpetual flight of the refugees kept rising? We knew we could donate money, clothes and other things but still felt so helpless and wanted to do more.
Natalie is a mother of two toddlers at home and it couldn't help but feel haunted every time a small displaced child flashed across the TV; torn from their family or laying in rows dead waiting to be identified. She is Chaldean, these were HER people; these children looked like HER children.
Late this past summer, my whole outlook started to change. My sister-in-law Andrea (Natalie's sister-in-law) called her up and said "Natalie, I hope you are ready because we are running for the crisis in Iraq." She told me that we would we be "Running for Iraqi Refugees" fundraising and sending money to refugee camps for emergency relief. Providing tents, mattresses, clean water, and other life saving resources to those in need, sending all Proceeds to the UNHCR. The Detroit Free Press Marathon served as the perfect platform to make a substantial contribution and so our journey began.
It has been such a rewarding experience for both of us to participate in each other's development and achievements as distance runners and humanitarians. Natalie had never really run before this race, and therefore had to work that much hard to ensure she reached the finish line. Every week, her runs dramatically improved from the week prior. It wasn't always convenient to make time to run. Sometimes she was tired, or busy, or just wanted to be with her family. However, she made a commitment to the people who needed her in Iraq. They were at the forefront of her mind every time she laced up her shoes. It difficult for Natalie to leave her family after a long day at work, to go for my run, but she was so grateful every time the greeted her at the door when she returned home. She thought of all of the displaced mothers, that would be lucky enough to see their families again, and for most, would NEVER return "home". So in honor of those women, she couldn't stop, because she refused to give up on them. As the donations started to come in, every dollar donated was like an unseen personal contract that bound both Andrea and Natalie tighter in allegiance to their cause.
Andrea is an avid distance runner, who is equally as passionate about their cause. She helped push and inspire Natalie every step of the way, to see just how far she could go. Natalie and Andrea have both been enlightned by the global impact that they have evoked by having a little willingness and courage. They have felt very fortunate to have been a part of this journey of hope and humanity.
The UNHCR is on the ground, providing life-saving relief and assistance to people in Iraq, Syria and other areas where conflict has arisen. They urgently need your support in order to provide protection and emergency aid (including provisional food, tents, mattresses and other basic essentials) to vulnerable refugees in areas like Iraq and around the world. They strive to meet the needs of the world's most vulnerable people, building support and awareness in the United States for UNHCR's life-saving relief programs. (For more information on the USA for UNHCR relief effort in Iraq, please visit http://www.unrefugees.org/where-we-work/iraq-emergency/)