I received a question in my email last week asking if I could write a blog about the impacts that the Foundation is having in South Sudan. I am so happy you asked and I am glad to get the opportunity to write about the impacts that we are making together for thousands in South Sudan. Most of you probably already know the 4 areas of focus for 4 South Sudan
- Clean Water, Education, Health Care, and Nutrition. For more information about these 4 target areas please visit my page about the Lopez Lomong Foundation
. Instead in this blog I am going to talk about more personal experiences and the needs that we aim to address with the work of the Foundation.
My foundation is in collaboration with many partners including World Vision and Alarm. The main reason for this is that we want to ensure that the most money possible goes directly to the projects in South Sudan without duplicating infrastructure or wasting money on recruiting trusted workers. For example, World Vision has 800 staff in South Sudan and works on a daily basis in the country. They have crafted relationships with local contractors who do great work at a fair price. We link right in to that great infrastructural strength!
As many know, over this last year we have raised over $250,000 for water projects in South Sudan! That will touch thousands and thousands of lives by providing clean water through a variety of methods - pipeline systems, rock catchments, borehole wells, irrigation canals, and PUR packets in emergency situations. But this is not just about providing clean water! We are simultaneously educating about sanitation, hygiene, and practices to promote better health. Clean water cuts childhood mortality rate in half, allows children to attend school instead of walking miles to fetch water, allows women to care for their families, decreases disease, and allows the opportunity for thriving crop and agriculture. In a few words, we are empowering people to live healthier, longer lives.
I walked for miles with this young girl to fetching water for the people in our village.
My younger sister and I in Kimotong Village
Maternal Health and Empowering Women - Another key focus of mine is providing opportunity and empowerment to women so that they can change the community. Some who read my book, Running for my Life
, know that I was devastated a few years ago to hear that my sister was raped while she was collecting firewood and as a result became pregnant. Since then she has had a beautiful baby girl. I have personally been supporting my sister and her daughter for the last few years so that she could receive proper prenatal care and then childhood healthcare. But I realize that I need to be able to provide this support to every mother and child in South Sudan. That is where the foundation comes in! The unfortunate events in my own family have made me determined that the foundation should focus a good part of its efforts on empowering women and providing maternal health care. There is a huge void in maternal health care in East Africa and as a result millions of women are suffering. At the same time, women are not given the same opportunity for education and skill development meaning that half of the population's talents are underutilized. Imagine if all of the sudden the workforce doubled! And not only that, but in many cases women add a creative, family-focused, and practical perspective to community and nation building. More than anything that is what South Sudan needs!
So to start achieving this goal we are building a church and community center in Kimotong, South Sudan that will have a vocational training center. I know that in addition to the primary school in Kimotong providing education for the youth, we need to engage and empower the adult women by teaching them skills and trades that will allow them to support their families and change their communities. We have taken time with the project to do grassroots study to understand what the community in Kimotong wants and how best to deliver these needs. The cost of this project will be somewhere between $250,000 and $350,000 largely dependent on the procurement of building materials and transportation. We are also very adamant that the community will provide a large number of workers in the building crew so that they take ownership of the project and also learn basic building and construction skills along the way. With the support of ALARM we are going to complete this project this year and are so excited to see the positive effects it will have on the Eastern Equatorial State of South Sudan.
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Running Tip #6: Nourish your body. Make sure you consume healthy foods within 30 minutes of completing your workout. This will dramatically improve your recovery and speed up development of lean muscle.
Back in New York again for the first time in the 2013 season and it feels great to be home! There is nothing quite as thrilling as racing in your homestate. As always the magnificence and beauty of New York City strikes awe and it is a pleasure to be here. It was my first ever Millrose Games and I have to start by thanking the amazing crowd that really brought the whole Armory Stadium to life tonight! The screaming of over 4000 fans was really amazing!
I am so excited to kick off my opening Mile with a new PR of 3.51.21 breaking my old record by nearly 2 seconds. I am truly humbled to be #3 all time American record for indoor 1 mile and #8 all time in the world for this discipline. I owe this exciting Mile opener to the very high caliber of athletes that competed with me today and the wonderful race venue in New York City. While the results are great, it is truly amazing to reflect on the incredible strength of American middle distance running as seen on the indoor track today. I am so proud to represent the U.S. beside all of these other amazing American athletes and I know as a team we will do amazing things in the Outdoor World Championships. This is certainly the year to put American middle distance and distance running back on the map and I am proud to be a part of that effort. Thank you again to all of my family, friends, and fans who cheered me to a win today! This is one of many to come!
Running Tip #5: Hills - You gotta love 'em! Like every other challenge, approach hills with strength and clarity of mind. When you crest over the top of a hill do a surge rather than slowing down to recover. A surge will help you return to your pace more quickly and will keep away the painful buildup of lactic acid. Embrace the hills!
In honor of Valentine's Day I thought it would be fun to reflect a little bit on what running teaches us about love. While at first glance Love and Running can seem to be polar opposites (even runners gloat that "our sport is your sport's punishment"), running truly has a lot to teach about this lovely subject. I met Brittany through running, so obviously love and running cannot possibly be very far apart.
Loving even the tough parts - Ask almost any non-runner and they will tell you that they "hate" running. They claim that no matter how much they try they will never enjoy it. The mistake here of course is being afraid of the pain. Long runs, speed workouts, pushing through limits - they all require a certian amount of pain. But runners know that the joy derived from running is worth every ounce of struggle. If someone new to running can commit to running everyday for 2 weeks (even just a little bit) they would taste the fondness that grows with time. In the same way, relationships only grow more powerful with time. They are not unlike long runs - feeling amazing in the beginning, really have to focus and concentrate in the middle, and then pick up speed again towards the end. In Love and Running it pays to remembering that this is what you LOVE to do (and this is the person you LOVE) even though it might be painful for a moment. As Yoda once said, "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds" (on second thought I believe that one is from Shakespeare ;)
Patience - In running, listening to your body is a key to effective training. Every mile you run is a gradual achievement of your goals but progress can sometimes be slow. For the last 5 years my relationship with Brittany has almost constantly been long distance. Anyone who has done long distance knows that it can be trying but that the time together is so cherished, making it all worth it. Right after we began dating in April, Brittany went away to Japan for language training. She got back in the nick of time for the 2008 Olympic Trails and then was there to send me off to the Olympics in Beijing, China (my first international race!). After the Olympics I went to Africa for a few months to bring my youngest brothers, Alex and Peter, to America (one of my proudest achievements!!). As soon as I returned, I took Brittany to the airport for a semester in Nagasaki, Japan. When she returned she competed for and won the Rhodes Scholarship and was off again to Oxford (one of the things I am most proud of her for!). And you get the point... All of this was a HUGE learning experience in patience and communication (thank heavens for Skype!). Not unlike learning to listen to your body, Learning to listen to the person you love, is the fuel of a successful relationship. Every mile between us is just another opportunity to run toward each other. All is not "fair" in love and war (well I don't know much about war, but sometimes that's what racing feels like ;). It's amazing what patience can do to level the playing field....
Running Tip #4: Love what you do! Positive reinforcement during and after runs improves your mood and positive thoughts promote better health and recovery - Job well done!!
Cherishing- Every runner has heard of the "runner's high" and any obsessive runner has come to know they are addicted to incredible sense of euphoria that surges through the body at the end of a long run or a hard workout. We can thank endorphins for the instant euphoria. The long term sense of satisfaction and joy that runners feel is thanks to having achieved something that challenges limits and pushes boundaries. Love is not that different - there is the instant satisfaction (the initial "infactuation" over your crush or the pleasure you get when you hear the words -"I love you"). Most of these feelings play on the "chemistry" beteween you and the person you love. But then there is the sense of peace, compassion, joy that only comes from a relationship tested by challenges and trials. A Tanzanian proverb says, "That which is good is never finished." These warm feelings have nothing to do with pleasure but instead result from a love truly cherished.
As I am driving home from the 2013 Husky Invitational I am reflecting on the start of the 2013 season. Today was my first race at the beautiful oversized University of Washington Indoor Track. Going back to my college roots with the 800 meter I am starting off with a little speed work. The last time I ran an 800 was exactly one year ago at this same meet in 2012. This time, only tenths of a second off my PR (Personal Record), I start my season off with a 1.46.5 and a WIN! 2013 is off with a BANG!
The race went out quick with a rabbit setting a quick pace in front of the field. I settled in towards the back of the pack staying connected but not overextending myself in the first 400 meters. One of the keys to racing is patience. Through the 400 I remained in the 2nd half of the pack with my eye on the leaders. I was watching for the leaders to make a move to pick up the pace so that I could respond quickly. With just 1 lap to go I found myself in a box (surrounded by other runners) without a clear lane to move up, so I moved to the outside of the pack. Feeling strong I made a gradual move along the backstretch and settled in again around the curve. I saved my energy around the curve using the momentum of the pack. Slingshot-ing around the end of the curve I positioned myself in the second lane allowing a clear lane to the finish line. I moved to my final gear, feeling smooth and strong and pumping my arms hard. I was still several places from the front but I began to sail by the other runners who were feeling the burn of the race in their legs. With about 10 meters to go I sailed into first place and secured a win.
I feel blessed for a strong race and a great start to the season. I thank God for giving me health and strength to compete at this level. Thank you to my family, friends, and fans for cheering me on and making this such a wonderful experience for me as an athlete! Cheers to the start of a great 2013 season!!
See you next weekend in New York City for the Millrose Games!
Running Tip #3: Use the buddy system. Run with a friend or a group of friends to take your training up a notch. Running with friends requires you to adapt to different paces and is also a lot of fun! Happy running!
A few months ago I had the joy of getting my first puppy - Amani! She is a border collie and husky mix that Brittany and I found at a rescue in Albuquerque, NM and we both fell in love with her from the moment we first met her! Amani's blessings are many - a running buddy for Brittany when I am away training, unending energy, and a constant companion. She also reminds me on a daily basis about the simple joys in life!
1. Food! - Anyone who has a dog (especially a puppy) knows how excited they get at breakfast and dinner time. Amani does a little "food dance" whenever we go to fill her dog bowl with her delicious organic dog food (she's a runner and needs good fuel to train hard everyday). Her "dance" involves wagging her tail, a little bouncing, and a little spinning while she struggles to stay seated because she knows she only gets her food if she "sits". It is a daily reminder to never take food or nutrition for granted and to count the blessings of having access to food. In Kakuma refugee camp I felt the same joy for the one small meal we got everyday and now in America I realize the true blessings we all have.
2. Family - One of the greatest blessings of adopting Amani was enjoying the unending love and loyalty that she has for Brittany and I. No matter how long a workday Brittany has or how exhausted I am after a hard workout, Amani is waiting at the door to lick our worries away. It reminds me of the importance of being surrounded by loving family and friends everyday. The greatest gift I ever received in my life was being adopted by a family when I was 16 years old. In the refugee camp I was a boy without an identity, family, or a country. When I came to America in 2001 I got a country to be proud of, a second chance at my childhood, and most importantly, I got the unconditional love and support of a family. Thank you so much to my parents Rob and Barb Rogers for everything you have done for me!
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3. Peace - When Brittany and I were thinking about what to name our new puppy we wanted something that would remind us daily of the joy she brings to our life. The word "Amani" means "Peace" in Swahili. As soon as we thought of it we knew that was her name :) Amani is a ball of energy and happiness and it reminds us everyday of the blessing of going to sleep at night knowing that we will wake up safe. We know that so many people living in war torn countries constantly worry about the safety of their families. I want to make sure that no other child is ever robbed of their childhood the way that I was. By simply providing a sense of peace and security for someone, a world of opportunity opens up allowing him or her to achieve their dreams. Our only limitations are the ones we put on ourselves. That is a beautiful thing! I train harder everyday so that together we can do amazing things and provide "Amani" for children in South Sudan.
Running Tip 2: To increase running speed add a burst of speed at the end of every run. Even accelerating for the last 100 meters of every run will have you craving speed and you will see the results!
These are only a few of the many joys of Amani. Amani is a goof-ball a lot like me and quite clever like Brittany. She is a great runner and training partner (of course!). I hope that we give her even a fraction of the happiness she gives us!
Please keep sharing my story and Running for My Life
with family and friends! I know that together we can change thousands of lives in South Sudan and share the many blessings - Join my team and the 4 South Sudan Campaign!