Thomas Miller Colleagues take on the Sierra Leone Marathon
Andrea Gentile (Senior Claims Executive, TT Club) and Julien Horn (Senior Underwriter, TT Club) represented Thomas Miller at the Sierra Leone Marathon for Street Child in April.
Our partnership with Street Child is in its second year and following the fundraising events and Marie-Danielle Caine’s participation in the 2022 Marathon, we had a chance to see how some of the funds raised by Thomas Miller are being put to much needed use.
Andrea and Julien both had experience of running half marathons in the past but these tended to be on the flat and nicely tarmacked pavements of London, Milan and Dubai which was of limited use in the heat and terrain of inland Sierra Leone.
They tell us about their experience below:
We were lucky enough to spend 5 days in Sierra Leone, learning about how the money we have raised within Thomas Miller is used in the country, and to see the results first hand in the local villages and schools. We then ran a half Marathon in and around Makeni, which felt more like an endurance trail race than any previous road race we have ever taken part in.
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. Around 524,000 children are out of school, 46% of children do not transition from primary to secondary school and 57% of women aged 15-49 are illiterate.
We learned that Street Child’s focus is on improving access to quality education in Sierra Leone through social, economic, infrastructure and instructional means. Street Child works predominantly alongside an excellent national NGO partner Street Child of Sierra Leone (SCoSL), and together they have increased opportunities to access quality basic education for more than 232,000 children nationwide. Street Child has an established nationwide presence in every province and works alongside families and communities to overcome barriers to learning.
Some specific examples of their work in Sierra Leone are:
- Educating children - Street Child are part of the Sierra Leone Education Innovation Challenge, funded by the Education Outcomes Fund, aiming to reach 134,000 children across 62 schools.
- Empowering families - Street Child’s award-winning ‘Family Business for Education’ model addresses individual social and financial barriers to education for the most vulnerable categories of children, including street-connected children, teenage mothers and children affected by disability.
- Training teachers - Many teachers in rural schools have never had formal training. Street Child’s teaching specialists provide ongoing in-classroom training, mentoring, and supervision for more than 600 teachers across Sierra Leone. The training and certification of teachers can transform the lives of the teachers and their communities, as well as the children’s learning outcomes in schools.
- Income generating initiatives – this aims to ensure the sustainability of education by supporting schools to find ways of affording the costs of education. This is through the provisions or seeds, rice or groundnut which are loaned to the community in order to farm. The profits from this are then returned back into the school for them to then sell at market rate with the money from this then being used to pay a stipend to teachers and for school repairs.
We were grateful to be joined by a number of other international runners from around the world. They included Canadian Scouts leaders, London lawyers, a Netflix Exec from California, nine members of the Formula E electric racing series and former England and Lions rugby player Will Greenwood. A nice group of people with very positive energy.
The evening before the race, we carb loaded and a had a medic briefing that brought us sharply down to earth advising that we would sunburn and dehydrate at speed. It was recommended that we apply sun cream every hour, wear a hat, drink a litre of water an hour and use the smiling children on the route as a valid reason to stop and enjoy the day rather than look at our watches or split times.
On the morning of the race we took our breakfast choices seriously with Andrea choosing parmesan and Julien focused on sweets and a banana.
We dropped our bags at the stadium and then proceeded to wait nervously for the 6am start in the knowledge that any delay would mean more time spent in the fierce sun and humidity as it started to heat up even before sunrise.
The race route wound through many villages and undulating tracks of deep red soil and we were cheered and thanked the entire race with smiles and high fives. Some of the children chose to run with us (bare footed or in sandals) for some of the way and we were both joined by local kids who ran the last section of the race and prevented either of us from any thoughts of walking at the finish.
Overall it was an amazing experience and a fantastic charity for Thomas Miller to be involved with. There is still time to donate to the combined fundraising page and thank you all for your support on this challenge.