6 March 2012

the run.

I was recently put in charge of a run.
I'm not a runner (unless you count my lazy attempts at running "the wall" - more on that later), but here I find myself in charge of a benefit run.

This run is an institution at The American School of Kinshasa.  Begun several years ago, it was inspired by a parent's desire to use the campus to benefit the community.  I have a lot to live up to!  For the past several years the event has been part of Run for Congo Women: A global run/walk movement benefiting Women for Women International’s Congo program.

Run for Congo Women is a good thing (Oprah likes it!).  Women for Women International is doing good things in the Congo.  For sure.

But - it felt a little weird to hold a run where the money raised was mailed to the U.S. so that it could be repackaged and sent back to the Congo.  It seemed inefficient.

So, I did some searching to try to estimate how much of our money would likely make it back to our Congolese neighbors if we did participate in Run for Congo Women again.  From what I could figure (because these organizations are respectably transparent about their financial information), the journey our money would make would hypothetically go something like this:

1.) Our school raises $2000 through a Run For Congo Women event. 
2.) We keep costs low through donations, but there is still around $200 overhead = $1800.
3.) We mail $1800 to Women for Women International's Global Support Center in New York.  "An average of 75% goes [to the Congo program]" = $1350. 
4.) Women for Women International processes our donation.  Around 24% goes towards necessary operations fees = $1012.50 comes back to the Congo to support WFWI's Congo program.

Now.  I'm totally opening up a can of international-globalization-aid-based economy-developing nation-economic worms.  I know.  But unless you simply ignore it (and we all do this sometimes), it's hard to do anything in Kinshasa without these issues staring you in the face (remember my cereal saga?)

Educated folks confirm that if this little run is trying to basically raise funds for our neighbors, we should work with a local organization. 

Kinshasa is crawling with NGOs, international aid organizations, mission outfits, you name it.  There are many people who could make good use of a donation from our event.  My goal was to find a  way to combine the run's original vision of serving Congolese women with a new dedication to local, sustainable, partnership.  In order to find something trustworthy I talked with my friend Anna.  Who talked with her friend Sophie of the Carter Center. Sophie, without hesitation, suggested we chat with Gabrielle of Fond pour les Femmes Congolaises (FFC).


The FFC is located right in our own neighborhood of Ngaliema here in Kinshasa. (We will literally drive our donation down the road!) Here's how Gabrielle describes her organization:

The fund's vision of building a Congo where women have the right to bodily integrity, economic justice, and participation at all levels in decisions that affect their lives and their communities.
As to the purpose, it mobilizes resources contributing to the development of collective action by Congolese women for impact - visible and holistic - in the lives of Congolese women and their communities.
She has been terribly patient with my dreadful French in emails to her - so I'm already grateful and looking forward to working closely with her.  Here in Congo, we've found a great solution to who will be the beneficiary of this event.

However, if you are reading from the U.S. or the U.K., I encourage you to find a Run for Congo Women near you.  Yes, I did just tell you about that pesky 25% that inevitably goes towards "operations,"  but actually,  25% is respectable considering the type of organization.  These efforts know their audience.  They know that it's super hard to get people to care about big issues in other parts of the world.  They know they have to spend money on looking pretty in order to garner support and participation. So, while it's not ideal for us already here in the Congo to collaborate with them, you in Virginia, Washington, London, Texas, and New Mexico...you should! 

More later...

Let us know if you sign up to participate in a run/walk near you...


  1. Jill, I must confess to being the reason for the run. We actually only raised a small amount of money in 2009 but it was enough to help two women for a year. I neglected to leave any info with Irene, even though she asked me to, so I am super happy and surprised to see something come of it. I am also glad to see you bring it home to Congo. You are my inspiration as I look to try to start something in Kenya. Thanks Vanessa Benedetti

    1. Thanks, Vanessa! This made my day - YOU are the original inspiration. Good luck with your planning and let us know what happens.

  2. Okay while you two bounce inspiration back and forth. I'd like to add that Vanessa is also the original inspiration for having a bunch of babies and making it look cool/fun. Which I've recently discovered isn't so easy...


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