A Marathon a Day Keeps Waterborne Diseases at Bay

February 4, 2015

Featured

Daren Wendell runs across the U.S. to raise money for Ethiopian clean water and sanitation project
 
Daren Wendell has started running one marathon a day for 100 consecutive days as part of the RunDarenRun campaign. Photo courtesy of David Uttley.

Daren Wendell has started running one marathon a day for 100 consecutive days as part of the RunDarenRun campaign. Photo courtesy of David Uttley.

On Jan. 1, Daren Wendell began a journey that’s the culmination of more than 2 years of training and planning. As part of the RunDarenRun campaign, Wendell is running one marathon each day for 100 consecutive days. Funds raised by the campaign will support a Lifewater International (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) project to provide clean water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education in the Borena region of southeastern Ethiopia.

“Water is a basic need that impacts every other aspect of life,” Wendell said. In developing countries, getting water is an important and time-consuming task for families, often preventing many children from attending school. Unclean water spreads disease that also keeps children at home, Wendell said. “That’s why issues like water, hygiene, and sanitation are key to improving education and breaking the cycle of poverty,” he added.

Funds raised by the campaign will support efforts to build new drinking water and sanitation facilities and to work s to provide health and hygiene information in the Borena region of southeastern Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of Uttley.

Funds raised by the campaign will support efforts to build new drinking water and sanitation facilities and to provide health and hygiene information in the Borena region of southeastern Ethiopia. Photo courtesy of Uttley.

In the Borena region, 22% of children under the age of 5 die from diseases caused by unsafe drinking water, a lack of sanitation facilities, or poor hygiene, according to a Lifewater news release. Funds raised by the campaign will support Lifewater’s efforts to build new drinking water and sanitation facilities and to work with local groups to provide health and hygiene information, which will benefit more than 30,000 Ethiopian citizens, the news release says.

“I first learned about the water crisis in 2008 when I walked the Appalachian Trail for a charity called Blood:Water mission,” Wendell said. As he walked the trail, people asked questions that inspired Wendell to learn more. “I became very passionate about the cause, especially after seeing the need for myself in my travels to Africa and Asia,” he added.

New water and sanitation facilities and eduction will benefit more than 30,000 Ethiopian citizens. Photo courtesy of Uttley.

New water and sanitation facilities and eduction will benefit more than 30,000 Ethiopian citizens. Photo courtesy of Uttley.

For his current journey, the 33-year-old will run from Santa Monica Pier in California to Times Square in New York City. He is scheduled to reach his destination by April 10. Wendell is determined to finish on time.

“For me, stopping or taking a break-day is simply not an option. I can’t control the weather or unexpected events, but we’ll have to deal with each issue one day at a time and just keep persevering.” Wendell said. “I’m not afraid of snow or rain and I know that even if I have to crawl, I’ll reach the New York finish line on April 10.”

Wendell explained that training, planning, and raising support required a lot of time and energy from both he and his wife. “It wasn’t unusual for me to come home from work and then go run [32 kilometers] 20 miles before a late dinner,” he added. But the work has been rewarding, he said. As of Jan. 28, the campaign has raised $64,540.

In addition to raising money, Wendell hopes to increase awareness of Lifewater as an organization and its ongoing water, sanitation, and hygiene education projects in impoverished regions. The organization works in Uganda, Bangladesh, Malawi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the news release says.

Wendell first learned about the water crisis during a fundraising hike in 2008. When he returned, Wendell cofounded the water-focused nonprofit, Active Water. Photo courtesy of Uttley.

Wendell first learned about the water crisis during a fundraising hike in 2008. When he returned, Wendell cofounded the water-focused nonprofit, Active Water. Photo courtesy of Uttley.

Wendell also asks others to fundraise, raise awareness, and participate in any way they can. “I’ve invited people to come out and run with me, many of whom are fundraising themselves for the cause,” he said. “Others who can’t run have chosen alternative ways to participate and fundraise, such as going 100 days drinking only water, or making time to exercise every day during my run. I believe there is a way for everyone to contribute in their own way or spread the word.”

Wendell cofounded the organization, Active Water (San Luis Obispo, Calif.), which raises funds for water projects. Six years ago, Active Water partnered with Lifewater. Currently Active Water is powered by Lifewater and Wendell oversees Lifewater’s fundraising division, the news release says.

Track Wendell’s progress across America at www.RunDarenRun.com and read more about Lifewater and its projects at www.Lifewater.org.

— Jennifer Fulcher, WEF Highlights

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