2020 Global 5K participants from USA, Canada, Nigeria, Uganda
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/05/2020-global-5k-participants-from-usa-canada-nigeria-uganda/
By Patty Huston-Holm
“If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together.”
The African proverb was the essence for the first few years of the Global 5K, a five-kilometer (3.1 miles) walk/run/social engagement activity sponsored by the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Partners non-profit organization. Abby Bartels, who lived for 10 years on the University campus and raised three children there with her husband, Mark, is the founder.
The year was 2015 and a time when many organizations were jumping on a 5K fund-raising bandwagon. For UCU Partners, it was less about raising money and more about building a relationship base among alumni of the Uganda Studies Program (USP), a one-semester, UCU learning experience for students enrolled in Christian universities, mostly in the United States. Mark Bartels, executive director for UCU Partners, started USP on the UCU Mukono campus. UCU Partners values USP alumni because they are a unique set of donors who have lived and studied at UCU.
“The event was actually better than expected because it strengthened connections not just with American students but with Honor’s College students and staff,” Abby, now living in Pennsylvania, said. “In addition to a time for remembering and re-connecting about a cultural, Christ-centered experience, it became an opportunity to raise money for Ugandan students in need.”
According to Ashton Davey, UCU Partners fundraising coordinator and facilitator for the 2020 Global 5K, nearly 200 people participated this year. Despite the hiccup of having an event on April 4 in the midst of worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns, more than $3,000 was generated, mostly by participant purchases of the event’s green T-shirt. The funds will supplement tuition for 12 needy students at UCU.
“Many participants found the Global 5K to be good motivation to get out of the house and simultaneously support a great cause,” Ashton said. “The event’s flexibility allowed people to participate alone from wherever they live, which allowed them to adhere to social distancing guidelines.”
So what was it like engaging in an event during an unprecedented worldwide pandemic? From Canada, Nigeria and Uganda, and nearly half of the 50 USA states, here is a sample of thoughts compiled from virtual interviews.
- Atimango Innocent (Minna, Nigeria) – former UCU Honors College student who previously benefited from the scholarship assistance and was once a USP staff member; now engaged with The Navigators, two-year discipleship training program
In the midst of focusing on Mathew 28: 19-20 and its message about “making disciples of all nations,” Innocent and a friend, Drew Uduimoh, did 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) for the Global 5K. She has done it every year except for maybe one when the event didn’t get off the ground. For 2020 and while Nigeria reported more than 800 virus cases, she jogged around the town where she lives with no lockdown restrictions.
“I feel personal about it since I was one of the students who benefited directly from the funding,” she said of the Global 5K. “But I also find it a time to do reflections on people and on the Lord.”
- Mikaela Hummel (Pakenham, Ontario, Canada) – USP student in 2019, while studying at Houghton (NY) College, where she receives her undergraduate degree in May; preparing to begin studies for a Masters of Science degree in physiotherapy
On the day of the Global 5K, it was 10 Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) in Pakenham, Ontario, where Mikaela participated in the event with her mom, dad, sister and dog. She wore long sleeves under her green shirt and her traditional African kitenge-design shorts. The area where they ran was a bit quieter than usual as COVID-19 restrictions had most stores closed and gatherings limited to five people or less.
“The experience in Uganda helped me to pause and think about what is really important in life,” she said. “The Global 5K is a time to reflect on that again. The pandemic puts the brakes on even stronger, reminding us to trust God.”
- Erin Neilson (Gallup, New Mexico) – USP student in 2006 while majoring in music at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa.; now raising two children and serving on a church music team with her husband, Phil, a middle school English teacher and also a 2006 USP student and USP program assistant 2008-2009
On the date of the 5K Zoom discussion on April 20, New Mexico had more than 2,000 confirmed cases of cornonavirus. Sixteen days earlier, the Neilson family of four, living in a small town near part of the Navajo Nation, did 5 kilometers. A special highlight was that Christiana, age 5, made the entire distance on her own. Caleb, a toddler, was carried.
“We had been hoping to hike with friends, but due to social distancing requirements, we ended up with time just as a family,” Erin said. Fourteen years after our USP experience I am reminded of the value Ugandans place on presence and am trying to live that daily with my children.”
- Laura Sollenberger (Gainesville, Florida) – USP student in 2018 while majoring in exercise science at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa.; now finishing her Penn State University bachelor’s degree in nursing through on-line classes while living back home with her parents
For Laura, her career move from occupational therapy to nursing was stimulated by a 150-hour internship at the Church of Uganda hospital (Mukono), where she realized the intimate and critical role of health care workers at a patient’s side. COVID-19 has reinforced that decision with some frustration that she can’t be on the front line now; she graduates in December.
Laura’s UCU experience in 2018 was “life-changing with deeper connections to friends and God, clearer purpose, better understanding of systemic injustices, and the challenge of learning from new cultural perspectives,” she said.
Laura planned to re-connect with 10 of those friends by participating in the Global 5K and making rolex afterwards in Lancaster, Pa. Instead, she is sheltered with family in her home state of Florida. Her mom and dad did the 5K with her.
“We did a Zoom afterwards,” she said of her USP friends. She added, “I will definitely go back to Uganda someday.”
- Molho Bernard (Kilowoza/Mukono District, Uganda) – 2018 UCU graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Education, working with the Honors College and USP up to February 2020 when Ugandan universities closed due to COVID restrictions while pursuing a Masters of Education in Planning and Administration.
On April 4, Bernard engaged in his second Global 5K by walking around his compound – different than the previous year when there were more people and it occurred on the campus. His “informal” companion during his warm-up with push ups and laps around the compound was a two-year-old named Mathew who lives in the same area and “loves coming to my room to watch me do some art work.” The 5K has special meaning to Bernard as he was once a recipient of the money raised through the event.
“In 2018, my family was going through a financial breakdown, and I was afraid of getting a dead semester,” he said. “Through the proceeds of 5K through UCU Partners, I was able to have my tuition and graduation fees cleared.”
Bernard continues to appreciate the Christian and academic standards at UCU. The environment has enabled him to “know Christ more, and I have grown up more in loving, trusting and obeying Him.”
Ashton, who splits her time between Uganda and Kansas, said it was “heartwarming” to see social media posts of people supporting Uganda Christian University in the 5K green T-shirts – from those “running in rural villages in Uganda and families hiking to wave across the state border at each other to USP alumni organizing a Zoom call to reflect on the lessons they learned in Uganda.”
To support Uganda Christian University programs, students, activities and services, go to www.ugandapartners.org and click on the “donate” button, or contact UCU Partners Executive Director, Mark Bartels, at email@example.com. For more information or with ideas for the 2021 Global 5K, contact Ashton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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