Not everyone runs to keep themselves healthy. Paying hundreds of dollars as an entry fee to run a race is a remote concept to many people in the third world countries.
The dollars one spends to register is someone’s monthly wage, sometimes even two, that would help in feeding in a family of four. Having grown up in such background, I understand how hard life can be. It’s not about living but a mere survival. That’s what the kids growing up in the slums of Chennai had to go through.
With no exposure to the outside world, abusive parents, bad neighbourhood, no access to resources, life becomes quiet a challenge. There is a still one hope. Only hope. EDUCATION. It’s your one and only one passport to get out of the situation for a better life. Personally, I know how hard it is and how hard I had to work just to keep my face above the waters to breathe and survive. Yet, education and empowerment helped me to get myself and my family out of poverty. It also enabled me to help others and give back to the community.
After my Europe adventures, I went home for a brief period to say hello to my family. One friend, I was very keen to catch up was Soundarya. She knew this early on that children are the future of the nation and empowering them with a good education is the key to a strong and successful community. To empower every child to realise their full potential and enable them to achieve their dreams and affordability shouldn’t become a stumbling block for a bright child. She started the organisation “Shishu Shakti” (Child empowerment).
It’s true that the simple act of running changes the outlook one has about themselves. The sport has the magic to transform oneself and instills so much confidence and will to fight no matter how hard the battle is. That’s exactly what the kids need to learn. To face their worst dangers, to never give up and fight till they cross the finish line.
I offered to volunteer and help in anyway possible. So on Nov 14th that is celebrated as Children’s day in India I was invited to address the kids. I never miss an opportunity to share my stories and adventure. There’s nothing wrong with inspiring others to dream their own dreams and giving them hope that IT’S POSSIBLE. I shared my story and how I grew up in poor conditions and how I had to work hard to follow my passion, face my fears to live the dream. Following the talk, I invited them to go for a run the following week and a dozen hands went up.
5:00 am, Marina Beach, Chennai. The kids showed up and were pumped for the run. Some of them had signed up to run 10 km at the upcoming Chennai Wipro Marathon. We ran along the beach and kept a slow and steady pace. Everyone ran at their own comfortable pace except for one who kept up with me and when I asked if he wanted to go further, he nodded his head like a puppy dog, excited. I kept a very gentle, conversation pace all along the way. We exchanged stories and I gave him words of encouragement to keep him moving. While we were waiting for the rest of the group to catch up, I told him that we had run close to 17km and he was shocked. He thought he could not run more than 10km. Sometimes, it’s all in the head.
I told him that he has the potential to run a half marathon easily and with proper training, he could finish a marathon in under 4 hours. It was priceless to see his eyes sparkle with joy and excitements and above all hope that he can do anything he wants if he set his mind to it.
Though I couldn’t be there for the race, it was awesome to see their finish line pics via Facebook and how each of them conquered their own Everest that day. It’s amazing to see what the human spirit can achieve.
Follow your heart, face your fears, Live your dream. Whatever your dreams are, IT’S POSSIBLE!