How Can Marathons Change Lives : A Brief History

Hope Runs had its unlikely start at the end of the founders’ eight-month trip around the world in 2006. Travel weary, we (Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Lara Vogel) had settled into the Tumaini Children’s Home for the last stop of a 20-country tour, and–on the recommendation of a friend–had planned to use this place solely as a welcoming and comfortable base for climbing Mt. Kenya.

However, we had never seen a place so committed to community building and welfare. With experience in numerous different non-profit organizations, we knew the real thing when we saw it. Only a few years old, Tumaini Children’s Home has created something amazing, and the kids’ happiness and humor is a truly addictive testament to the love and care the elders of the community have invested. We know from their personal stories that many of these children have not grown up in ideal circumstances–whether survivors of desperate poverty, abuse, drug addiction, rape or the death of their parents–these children inspired us with their resilience, strength, and humor.

It was easy for us to decide to return to the home, but we wanted to find a way to contribute something that further strengthened this community, and that supported the commitment to health and well-being that the Tumaini Children’s Center had so prioritized. We were also committed to strengthening the ties to developed nations and funding that had kept this orphanage thriving, as it faced a period of financial struggle, while also helping the home to find more lasting means of self-support.

We had both just become serious runners – Claire training for a second marathon and Lara her first – and it had brought us considerable freedom and joy in the past few years. We felt it could be just the right thing for the kids. In its first year, 22 Tumaini marathoners trained for 4 months and then competed in the Mt. Kenya marathon. The entire orphanage also held its first annual Hope Runs 5K and 10K race and fun run with over 150 participants–running seemed to be a great fit.

However, not every kid was willing or able to run throughout the week. We knew the kids had a sense of humor and personal outlook that would inspire people, and became interested in sharing their perspective and voice with the world. As bloggers ourselves, we knew that this instantaneous and casual forum would be best for engaging the kids in a technological skills program. From that grew our online video series, which became a computer class, which then led to a business program…

Of course we could not stay forever. Having seen how so many other places have struggled when international attention and funding wane, we were determined to set up lasting projects. We returned to the US, formalized our work, and began fundraising in earnest.

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