You can. I know you can.

It’s time for an update. There will hopefully be more pictures than talking here, but first I’ll need to set the stage for you and try (desperately) to do all this justice.

I have spent a week exclusively working with the children of Lira Integrated School but on Saturday we- myself, Dickens and Uncle Sam who are both CPU staff- headed out of Liratown and into the countryside to host a “running team try out” with the other two groups of children that CPU helps.

The two groups we met with are the children of Chorome School and the village of Orit. The children in these two locations optimistically wait to be sponsored by a CPU donor. (Maybe you will become a donor for one of them? Ask me for more info if you are interested, it is affordable and changes lives forever!) Once the child is sponsored she/he move to Lira Integrated School- which provides year around boarding. The education, feeding program, safety, counseling and rehabilitation resources at Lira Integrated are the child’s best shot at a better life.

Life at Chorome or in the village of Orit is very difficult. For example, because these kids live in small villages they are reliant upon caregivers for food and housing. These kids are orphans so the caregiver is usually a grandmother or aunt who is also caring for a half dozen other kids, not kidding. It is hugely overwhelming and near impossible for these honorable relatives that try to care for the kids… poverty here is extreme which means people have very little food to eat, drinkable water is limited, they sleep on the ground in mud/grass huts, conditions are unsanitary, medical care is nonexistent, and the economy is abysmal.

Also, since the children live so far outside of Liratown CPU can only meet with them once a week- as opposed to the daily programs for kids in town. This means these specific children are receiving far less support than they need.

The children in these photos ran hard, competing to be on the team, and most likely did so without having eat that day. Most of them have scars on their bodies from the war. They suffer from PTSD and before explaining (at least three times) what I meant by “high-five” they all winced the moment I held my hand up toward them, as if I am going to hit them in the face. They are all barefooted. Their clothes are dirty, stained, torn and tattered. Some have evidence of abuse and torture on their faces.

Some of them have a look in their eyes that would break all our hearts in a moment.

Unexpectedly, I admit, they glow with dignity and with all this in mind please consider how impressive, amazing, and inspiring it was to watch them run… fast.

They ran hard and gave their full effort, with full joy. They raced each other full-heartedly. They ran all out because they wanted to show that they are interested and serious. They want to work hard and have fun. They want a shot at something unique, something special, brought to them by a crazy mono (white person) from America who sees their worth… who sees their potential as human beings, as athletes, as leaders… who wants to empower them with everything she has. Who considers it an honor to look them square in the eyes and say, “You can. I know you can.”

“Ready… set… go!”

We started with the younger girls race.

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Here the younger girls line up at the start.Image

The sight of them running round the first turn… we used this path as a race course.

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And here is our young girls champion!

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Accomplished and proudly lined up in finishing order, right to left.

Next up, the younger boys.Image

Umm, seriously look  at their running form. “Amazing” doesn’t do them justice.Image

Younger boys winner! This kid means business.

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Lined up post-race, left to right. The littlest guys at the end might have had a disadvantage… they are tiny but they sure tried hard.

Then the older girls gave it a try. Most of them are quite reserved, I guess they let their feet do the talking.

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Older girls winner. I’d heard from a some of the other kids, Dickens and Uncle Sam that she fast. Clearly.
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Here the older girls line up post race for a photo. This photo gives “running skirt” a whole new meaning. I am trying to locate light-weight athletic shorts, longer ones, so that running will be more comfortable for them.

Last but not least, the old boys get after it.Image

Pure focus and determination. I told them that I was photographing for my friends back in America and the UK. They seemed to be taking this quiet seriously. It was fabulous.Image

Older boys champ! Woot, woot! He ran a 77-78 for .28 of a mile (yes, I measured it out exactly.) For my runner and non-runner peeps, that’s 450 meters- aka a lap on a track plus 50 meters. Let me put this is even better perspective, he ran well under 5 minute mile pace (approx. 4:40 pace) for his first race ever and was all smiles afterwards. Mmmk. Dang!

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The older boys looking pleased post race!

Once all the races were finished, post race pics taken, high-fives distributed to everyone, we took a group photo together under a giant tree that sits just next to the path they’d just trampled all over and shown who is boss. The scene was beautiful. The accomplishments both measurable and immeasurable. Image

Awpoyo and ameri,

Kelsey

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