Marie Caine completes the Sierra Leone Marathon for Street Child
Marie Caine (Underwriter, Thomas Miller Specialty) represented Thomas Miller at the Sierra Leone Marathon for Street Child in June this year. This is our first key event since launching our new charity partnership with Street Child.
Marie is a keen runner and is already in training for an Ironman later in the year so this opportunity came at the right time for her. Below she tells us about her time in Sierra Leone and taking on this intense challenge.
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I was lucky enough to spend 8 days in Sierra Leone, learning about how the money that we raise at Thomas Miller is used in Sierra Leone and seeing the results first hand in the local villages and schools. I then ran a Marathon in Makeni in 35 degree heat!
Street Child – The Aim of the Charity
Poverty, poor quality of education and poor learning environment remain the biggest barriers to education in Sierra Leone.
I learned that Street Child’s focus is on improving access to quality education in Sierra Leone through social, economic, infrastructure and instructional means. See some examples below:
- Social – The local custom is that pregnant girls should not attend school. Unfortunately teenage pregnancy is extremely common in Sierra Leone. To help combat this trend, Street Child pay and train social workers locally to speak to families to encourage them to send pregnant teens to school.
- Economic – Often, children are kept home to help their parents with work. Street Child encourages parents to send their children to school via incentive schemes such as low interest loans for starting their own businesses, such as growing produce like herbs or rice. Street Child provide help with growing techniques and visit the families on a regular basis in order to avoid the crop failing through lack of skills or knowledge.
- Infrastructure – Street Child builds schools, supplies stationary and uniforms, and helps children get to school are all by Street Child.
- Instructional – Paying and training teachers to be qualified and eventually become an officially government recognised teacher (where the government gives them a salary for life).
The evening before the race, we carb loaded and a had fairly serious medic briefing, where we were warned that burns would increase the rate at which we would dehydrate 10 fold and that it was likely that all of us would have a “Paula Radcliff” moment. It was recommended that we apply sun cream every hour, wear a hat, and drink a litre of water an hour – which meant we would be expected to sip water nearly continuously during the run. On the morning of the race, we were served porridge, and then headed off to the stadium from our hotels at 4am.
We dropped our bags at the stadium and then had a 30 minute group warmup. We were then waived off by the former president of Sierra Leone, the British high commissioner, and the CEO of Street Child. There were around 700 people participating in the race from across the world, though many of the runners were from Sierra Leone. The race route wound through many villages and roads and we were cheered and thanked for nearly the entire duration of the marathon. Many of the children even ran with us for some of the way.
The marathon was technically an ultramarathon as it was a couple of miles longer than a standard marathon. Marathons are a gruelling process and I wasn’t quite prepared for the extra distance, but the abiding gratitude of the locals and the children’s unending excitement gave me the extra boost I needed to finish strong.