The Untold Story Behind My Half Marathon Fundraiser
As of today (World AIDS Day), we have raised $3,575 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation to fight HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thank you to everyone who made a donation!
Many of my friends ask me why I’m doing this. There’s actually quite a long story about how I was inspired to do this fundraiser, but I’ve only told a handful of people because the story is just much too long to explain to everyone I bump into. I’m going to tell you the story here, but only if you listen closely!
Tell me the whole story, Dina
In summer of 2014, I went to Kenya on a two-month volunteer trip to bring some new initiatives to a community savings bank in Kanyawegi, a small village beside Lake Victoria. My team and I got a lot accomplished, but there was one project that fell through at the very end because of some difficult circumstances. In my last post on my DINA IN KENYA blog, I concluded, “It’s the end of my trip, but it’s not the end of DINA IN KENYA.” I had made a commitment to social impact.
Fast forward a year later
In October this year, I started to look for co-op jobs. There was one company I wanted to apply for, and I knew Bryan, the District Manager in Vancouver. I set up an informational interview with him to ask him a few questions. I thought it was going to be the typical 30-minute informational interview, but boy, I was wrong—we ended up talking for almost two hours!
Before the meeting, I researched him. On his LinkedIn, it says that he supports the Stephen Lewis Foundation. How coincidental! I knew that three weeks later, Stephen Lewis was coming to Vancouver to speak at an event. I made a mental note to tell Bryan about it.
At the meeting, when I pulled my notebook out of my bag, Bryan said that I should start from the last question—he said it’s his way of getting students to ask him the most interesting questions first. Sure, enough, I had written there: Tell him about Stephen Lewis event?
We discussed many things—philanthropy, travel, career, education, goals, and more, but there was one piece of advice that stuck with me. When I told him I wanted to eventually do something in international business and/or international development, he told me that I had to find a mentor in this field, and the mentor must be a she. A mentor who was a woman and who was 10 years older than me.
Because I had told him earlier about Stephen Lewis event, he suggested, “You know what, find a mentor at the event. There will be a lot of people who know a lot about that field.”
A whole day of inspiration
I spent the whole day at Vancouver Community College listening to UBC student presenters who had just come back from their International Learning Programs in developing countries. In the afternoon, everyone migrated across the street to the Vancouver Playhouse to hear Stephen Lewis’s ending keynote speech.
(I was so excited to hear him that I actually read his book Race Against Time before the event. Just because I was curious. Highly recommend!)
So… this next part of the story is so funny I have to tell it in present tense
After Stephen Lewis’s speech, there’s a crowd of students gathered around him in the lobby. I don’t like barging into crowds, so I wait. Five minutes, ten minutes. There was still a small crowd around him. I’ll never get to him!
Thinking about whether or not I should leave, I suddenly see him step out of the crowd of people. An older woman taps his shoulder and he nods at her. They head towards the exit, just the two of them.
Oh my goodness. This is totally my chance!
I rush towards the door and they are already walking down Hamilton Street.
Man, would it be weird if I ran after them? They’d think UBC has some crazy students.
But, what if I never get the chance again?
After contemplating for a minute if I should chase after them or not, I finally decide to do it. By this point, they’re already halfway down the block and approaching an intersection. So I chase after them.
Phew! I made it!
I’m out of breath. I apologize for interrupting them, and I introduce myself. I know exactly what question I want to ask him. I ask him if he can recommend me a mentor who works in international development, is a woman ten years older than me, and lives in Vancouver. What a mouthful!
He ponders for a few seconds before the woman next to him says, “Here, dear, take my phone number and you can meet with me.”
“You know, she’s not exactly ten years older than you, but I think you’ll enjoy talking to her,” he adds jokingly.
We exchange contact information and the three of us chat for a minute.
It felt like I had just met a celebrity, so obviously, I ask them if I can take a quick photo. Conveniently, there were some people passing by so I ask them to take a photo!
Tea and biscuits with Patsy George
Patsy George is a recipient of the Order of Canada, and she has done an extensive amount of social work in Canada and internationally. About a week after I chased those two down the streets of Downtown Vancouver, I met with Patsy.
She told me her story about moving from India to Canada when she was __ years old, and . She told me how exactly the Stephen Lewis Foundation started and about the amazing grandmothers behind some of their campaigns. She helped Stephen Lewis start the charity and she’s currently on its Board of Directors. She’s also on the board of a few other charities. In total, we chatted for two hours about our experiences and our thoughts, and she agreed to be my mentor.
What does the Stephen Lewis Foundation do?
When I got home that evening, I wanted to find out more about the Stephen Lewis Foundation because of what Patsy said about it. There’s a lot of things I love about it, and a lot of things I think the charity is doing right. I love how the it works with grassroots organizations to bring a halt to some of the bigger issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. I also love how they save on their expenses by having field representatives in Africa and they don’t need to send volunteers from Canada to Africa.
After a few minutes on their site, I stumbled across something called Dare Campaign.
When you start a Dare Campaign, you help the charity raise money by doing something crazy and getting your friends to sponsor you. Feeling inspired by happened in the last few days, I decided to start my own Dare Campaign.
What’s something crazy I could do? I remembered a friend telling me a few days ago about a half marathon happening at UBC in a few weeks. Perfect, I thought. A half marathon is crazy, right? (The longest I ever ran was 10 kilometres for the Vancouver Sun Run.)
I dare myself to run a half marathon
After four weeks of intense training, I ran my first ever half marathon (21.1 kilometres). My time was 2:05—two hours and five minutes!
I know that in the photo I’m smiling, but boy, it was so painful. One of my friends challenged me to finish in two hours, so I made that my goal. During the race, there were honestly some points where I wanted to cry because my legs burnt so much. But I didn’t want to stop.
All your donations motivated me to keep on going and try to reach my goal!
Although I didn’t make it in two hours, I did beat my personal best for a 10K run. I did six 10K Sun Runs before, and my fastest time was 1:03. When I checked the half marathon results, I did my first 10K in 57 minutes. A solid five minutes faster, high five! (Did you get the pun?)
The half marathon is over, but my work here is not. Whether I’m in Kenya, Canada, China or somewhere else in the world, I’m going to continue to give my time and effort to make people’s lives healthier and more positive, in whatever way I can.
Thank you for reading my story. If you would like to support my half marathon fundraiser, you can still make a donation here. You will receive a tax receipt for a donation of $20 CAN or more.