This weekend, Relief Run’s virtual running festival will see thousands put on their sneakers – across Australia, and around the world – to support a COVID-19 crisis appeal for India.
“When I run around my lockdown area in Melbourne, I’m running with India in my heart,” says Samantha Gash, Relief Run’s co-founder.
Gash, who is a professional endurance athlete and former contestant on reality TV show Survivor, created Relief Run last year. More than $1 million for Australian bushfire relief was raised by the first Relief Run, with people running or walking at any location they chose. More than 94 countries were represented, including a scientist at the Centre for Climate Change Research, Antarctica.
In response to the catastrophic second wave of COVID in India, Gash was moved to hold a Relief Run for World Vision Australia’s support program there. This week, India reached 29 million cases, contining to average more than 100,000 recorded cases per day.
“As global citizens, hopefully that comes with the desire to help those who are struggling,” Gash said.
This weekend’s event (11-13 June) is personal for Gash. In 2016, she ran across India, covering 3,200 kilometres on foot to raise support for World Vision’s education initiatives.
“I’ve seen, first-hand, the work that they do there within the community, and so I feel pretty passionate about supporting those that are experiencing a particularly challenging time right now.”
More than 1,000 runners or walkers are expected to join Gash this week, covering distances from three-50 kilometres. Registration fees and other donated funds all go to World Vision’s India appeal, which is responding to the need for supplies including beds, oxygen concentrators, food vouchers and tents for temporary COVID-19 care centres. Already, Relief Run is close to reaching its $250 000 target.
“Part of our mission was to share the story, to give the numbers, to paint a picture from what our friends on the ground and from World vision are saying,” said Gash.
“At the moment the crisis is hitting on a medical front but there are many other systemic issues that are going to happen for a long time to come and the fact that World Vision is already on the ground, means that they can address those as well.”
Gash believes that Relief Run is about serving others, by supporting them despite being physically apart.
“Never negate the power of your footsteps – it creates a movement; it allows people to feel like they’ve been listened to and heard.”