Reporting by Lamrana Amadu Bah & Jaime Yaya Barry
Pictures: Jaime Yaya Barry
Over 500 runners, from 12 countries including the president of Sierra Leone took part in the 2013 Street Child Marathon in the northern town of Makeni.
President Koroma finished the 5km run just under an hour. He accompanied by 50 members of his staff who also did the run. This was the second annual marathon by Street Child Sierra Leone, a non-profit that works with vulnerable children across the country. Last year’s marathon raised 20,000 GP and had a much smaller turn out.
Chris Johnson, a Sierra Leonean runner won the full marathon of 26 miles with a time of 2 hours 48 minutes while last year’s winner Idrissa Kargbo came in second place with a time of 2 hours 55 seconds. Police constable Mamie Konneh Lahun won the women’s group with a time of 3 hours 12 seconds.
Tom Dannat, Director and Founder of the charity which has its offices in London said he started the organization after a trip to Sierra Leone in 2008.
“We have in our four years of operation helped 2000 children from the street into education and by September we will be training very close to five hundred teachers and develop simple schools to give a basic education to the vulnerable children in remote areas like Tambaka in the Koinadudgu district,” he said.
Mr. Dannat went on to state that the event has re-personified the organization and the monies raised will help in boosting their expansion plans for 2013 as there are still communities that need attention.
One survey found that there were 230,000 out-of-school children in Sierra Leone; most of them in rural villages. Through teacher training and school construction in needy rural communities Street Child is working to reduce these numbers.
“I want to register my appreciation to the runners and sponsors for their effort in helping us raise funds and President Koroma’s participation in the event will serve as a memorable day in the history of our work as a charity.” he noted.
Speaking at start of the race clad in his blue track suit and the official marathon shirt, President Koroma said he is in the race because he believes it is a worthy cause that complements the government’s efforts.
“Children across the country should be at homes and in schools and not in the streets, so we are all here this early to give our support,” he said.
Andreas Nordgen, a Swedish national who came to witness the event said it was an amazing experience for him because this his first time in Africa. He said that seeing such a well-organized marathon changed his perspective about Africa especially Sierra Leone. He believes Sierra Leone has a lot to offer especially to tourists and adventurers.
A runner Dan Kelly from USA who has been in Sierra Leone for the last 7 years said running with the President and little children has made an impression on him. He says he hopes to see more Sierra Leoneans participating in the next marathon because this and the previous marathon had more expatriates than locals.