Mar 20, 2012

First St. Charles 2K

First St. Charles 2K

Well we actually did pull it off our first St. Charles Clinic 2k Run but it truly was Haitian style. Often in life as hard as you try to plan things they just don’t go as expected, but usually the detour is full of lessons and unexpected blessings.  Our 2K run prove to be no different. For months we have been working with our exercise group talking about the benefits of exercise and healthy nutrition. We have watched many who have never exercised let alone run in their life grow an appreciation for movement. It has been a time to come together, to laugh, to do what they often perceive as crazy movements and even get their heart rate up a bit. Most of our class had never even attempted running and to do for sport was an even more foreign concept. I mean if you were needing to run to chase say a chicken for dinner that was one thing but to run just to run does not make sense to most Haitians. By the time the race started we had not only convinced over 40 adults and 60 plus kids to run but they even paid to sign up. All adults paid equivalent to 50 cents each and all kids paid about 8 cents. We had to stop the registration a half hour after the race was planned to start so we could actually get started.

Now in the states when you sign up for a road race it is common knowledge that you will have a starting line, finish line and marked out course that you need to follow to complete the race.  What is that saying you should never assume anything? Well despite our attempts of designing a course, marking with cones/arrows / people and having me on a bike leading the way we still only had one racer complete the whole thing in its entirety.  After the first turn the game quickly changed from a runner following a course to spot the “blan” on the bike in the bright shirt and sprint to her no matter where you are. My first instinct was wait “no no” they are not doing it right this is not how races are suppose to be but really when I just let it go and gave in to what was happening I realized all our objectives were being met. People were running, getting exercise, having fun, dancing, and feeling good about what they accomplished.

The theme of the race was “Running to give Life”. We see so many strokes here in the clinic and many of the risk factors are difficult to control here. Our goal in working with this population is to help them see the things they can control such as monitoring their BP, taking meds if needed, eating healthy, and exercise. It was AWESOME to see so many here getting excited about exercise. We had participants of all ages some ran some walked. We even have a photo of nuns on the run. Yes, even they were getting into it. 

The photo above I think captures the overall excitement of the day as everyone came together for a photo with his or her certificate for completing the race. Looking around after the race when we finally were able to take a deep breath and process the morning, we noticed not one single certificate was thrown on the ground. In Haiti this is significant because most just throw trash to the ground without thought. After soccer matches you can always find cups, wrappers and other papers on the ground everywhere. The certificates were just Xerox copies on regular paper but to them they had meaning. They had all paid what they could to participate, they had worked to accomplish a task and they had a reason to be proud. 

I think there were lots of lessons in this. Often when we walk out on the streets Haitians young and old will ask us because we are white to “give them something”. Sometimes it is food, money, clothes, I have heard it all. My time here in Haiti has helped me learn that really what they need is for more of us to come along side them and empower them. Show them they don’t need a hand out they are smart, able and have more than they realize to offer.  They all paid something (what they could) to participate in exercise to help their health and they had fun doing it. It was a great way to see a community of many different cultures (when you throw in all the volunteers) coming together in fellowship for a good cause. I hope and pray more things like this can be done to help not only encourage healthy living but also help prevent all the strokes we see on a day-to-day basis.