On Sunday 1st March, one of the UK’s most popular city running events is taking place – the Bath Half Marathon. With thousands of runners taking part, and thousands more spectators lining the streets and cheering them on, the city is literally buzzing with atmosphere and excitement on ‘BathHalf Day’.
Every year, I stand by the barrier near the Holburne Museum soaking up the atmosphere and cheering on the runners. Come rain or shine (and especially when it’s freezing cold and rainy like last year!) me & Lil’ L are determined to stay right until the last of the runners finish their epic journey. I especially feel for those that have been on the course of hours. I can see in their faces how much they’re hurting when they turn that final corner and head onto Great Pultney Street. Hurting, but totally euphoric. We encourage them onwards by shouting that they’ve only got a few more metres to go. What an incredible sense of achievement they must feel!
In all the years I’ve supported the Bath Half runners, not once have I wished to be running with them. If anything, I feel a sense of relief when I see their faces on the final corner, glad that I’m not going through the agony with them.
But this year, things are going to be a little different as I’m hopping over the spectator barrier to join the 15,000 runners. Even as I type this I can’t quite believe this is happening! The longest I’ve ever run before is 10K so running double the distance seems unimaginable right now. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to hurt a lot. BUT, it’s all going to be worth it as I’m running to raise money for an amazing charity ♥
The Bath-based charity, Mercy in Action, was founded in 1995 by John and Allison Todd, following an unexpected encounter with five street boys during a trip to the Philippines. The boys hadn’t eaten for three days and were begging on the streets. Moved by the plight of children the same age as their son, John and Allison took them for a meal.
“Within the 30 minutes it took us to order the food and the boys to eat it, we both knew we couldn’t walk away from them, and so the seeds were sown for what has grown into a charity which to date has helped thousands of children and their families.” John Todd
Mercy in Action is involved in numerous projects to help the poorest of the poor in the Philippines, and street children are at the very heart of what they do. The following are just a few examples of the valuable work that the charity does to support these vulnerable children:
Street LIFE Projects
Mercy in Action runs a ‘Drop in’ where street children are able to shower, wash their clothes, and have a hot lunch every day. Social workers support the children and ensure they get medical attention if needed; a teacher provides lessons tailored to the children’s various abilities; and global volunteers assist with the lessons and plan fun activities for the children including crafts, sports and a weekly outing.
“The drop-in was challenging to see; children from about the age of 7 living on the streets. We were struck by the size of the children. 14 year olds looked like 7 year olds, as a result of stunted growth due to poor, or at times non-existent, diets before Mercy in Action started working in that area […] The children were still amazingly positive, despite living on the street or in slums. They loved doing arts and craft activities and would try hard in the hours of teaching each day. Perhaps what sticks out most was that despite their conditions, despite they were standing in a ripped t-shirt often with nothing else on, when they got some food they would share it around and even offer it to us before themselves – such amazing, heartbreaking kindness, happiness, hope and generosity”. Volunteers’ Reflections on the Drop In
Mercy in Action also runs a community centre with a range of after school clubs and organised activities. Many of the children that attend the centre live in slum houses with only one room and no electricity, which makes studying very difficult. A new library and study area has been set up in the centre to help support the children and enable them to excel in their studies.
The first of three family houses and a community centre housing a canteen, meeting place and volunteer accommodation have been constructed on a purpose built site. A routine of school, play, good nutritious food and loving carers brings about radical and lasting changes in the majority of youngsters – even the most damaged and vulnerable. The remaining houses will be built as soon as finances allow.
The Boys Home
In September 2012, Mercy in Action was able to rent an additional house near Spring Village and moved four street boys that they had been working with for five years into the new house. They were aged between 8-17, and all had drug addictions. The boys are all thriving in the home, and have been joined by four more. They are all off drugs, in regular education and flourishing with the help of loving house parents and counselling. The older boys volunteer on Mercy in Action projects, and are great role models to boys who are still on the streets.
Through a partnership between International Justice Mission (IJM) and Mercy in Action, the first rescue home solely for male victims of trafficking in the whole of the Philippines has been set up called Chelo’s House.
The key to seeing lasting change in the lives of the children they work with is to support the communities in which they live. Recognising this, Mercy in Action sets up tailor-made programmes to meet the needs of individual communities. In the mountain village of Tapul where absolute poverty was preventing many children from attending school, Mercy in Action replanted an area of previously logged forest and gave ten fruit trees to each family to care for. When mature, the fruit will provide a much needed income. Until then the children on the programme receive a hot, nutritious meal each day, as well as having all their schooling needs met. The parents have taken responsibility for maintaining this innovative project.
Mercy in Action recently received a grant for a small business fund. With this money they bought a fridge and other supplies to start an ice candy business. Some of the mums from a weekly support group called ‘Source’ get together once a week and make batches of ice candy. They then sell it in their local communities and give half of the money to Mercy in Action to continue the business and the rest they use to feed their families.
Several of the ‘Source’ mums have been on jewellery making courses provided by Mercy in Action. They then make beautiful necklaces and bracelets that are sent to England and sold in the charity shops. The women receive a fair wage for their work and all other profits are put back into projects with street children.
Mercy in Action is committed to helping families realise their dream of living in a home of their own. Small native houses are quick to build and relatively cheap, yet offer stability and hope that can pave the way to a happy, healthy family unit. Over the years the charity has been able to provide more than 50 homes.
Fundraising for Mercy in Action
So next Sunday I’ll be lacing up my running shoes, gritting my teeth, and heading out on that 13.1 mile run round Bath in order to raise as much money as I can for Mercy in Action. I’ve pledged to raise a minimum of £175.
If anyone would like to sponsor me, any donations, whatever the amount, will be so gratefully received. Just think, if everyone who read this post donated £2, I’d easily smash my target!
As a small token of my gratitude, I’m going to enter all the sponsors into a prize draw to win a gift box of 6 hand-made chocolates (or a gift box of my favourite non-melty goodies if you’re currently enjoying summer in the southern hemisphere!) Three winners will be selected on March 6th and notified by email.
Thank you SO much for your support. It means the world to me and Mercy in Action ♥ xx