- Sharon Jones and her twin daughters, Susana and Sophie, from Co. Antrim, are running 180km in May
- They are part of a team virtually running from Belfast to Canada, aiming to raise £20,000
- Funds raised are going to global development and aid charity Tearfund as it responds to the impact of Covid-19 on people living in poverty
Just as Northern Ireland went into lockdown, Sharon Jones, Senior Lecturer at Stranmillis University College, Belfast, heard about ‘5km a Day in May’, a fundraising challenge created by a group of runners for global development and aid charity Tearfund. She decided to join – as did her two daughters, Susana and Sophie, both 18. The trio are aiming to run 180km in May 2020.
Including 46 other members, the ‘5km a Day in May’ group is covering the distance between Belfast and Newfoundland (over 3,300 kilometers) over the month of May. Running mainly in Northern Ireland with a couple of members in England and one in Poland, they hope to raise £20,000 for Tearfund – which could help up to 6,600 families living in poverty to access essential sanitizing products like soap and bleach powder, helping them to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
Sharon first heard about the challenge on Twitter: ‘I noticed a tweet from a friend about a challenge raising funds for Tearfund’s Covid-19 response. At that time I was about half-way through the ‘Couch to 5k’ programme. I thought joining the team would be a great way to keep motivated, and a fun lockdown project with my daughters. But it was also a way we could help people in situations of poverty around the world who are trying to deal with the impact of coronavirus, including refugees.’
Sharon’s daughters, Susana and Sophie, who are twins, were keen to get involved: ‘I had been wanting to try to do something productive with my time in lockdown. This challenge has given me motivation to get out running on the roads again as I know that I am running for a fantastic cause,’ says Susana.
Sharon, Susana and Sophie running ‘5k a day in May’ for Tearfund
Sophie adds: ‘Usually my weekdays would have been jam packed with travelling to school, staying behind for music practices, and then coming back home with lots more to do! With A-levels being cancelled, and nowhere to commute to anymore I’ve found myself with a lot more time on my hands. I now love these runs being part of my routine!’
On why supporting people living in poverty is important, Sharon is clear: ‘I can’t travel personally right now to help people in places like Lebanon or Jordan or the Democratic Republic of Congo, but I am confident that Tearfund have people on the ground there who can direct help where it’s really needed, and deploy it in just the right way.’
Sophie knows her experience of lockdown is different to that of others around the world: ‘Lockdown is hard for everyone in Northern Ireland, but having learned more about what Tearfund is doing I’ve realised that there’s so many things we still take for granted. For the communities in poverty that Tearfund are helping, lockdown brings different challenges. Families in places like Lebanon have no income due to lockdown restrictions, and the things we take for granted like clean water, hygiene products, and food are in short supply.’ Her sister Susana adds: ‘I think it’s so important to use the gifts and abilities that we’ve been given to help others where possible. I know that the money we raise will be used effectively by Tearfund to improve family situations across the world.’
Tearfund NI Acting Director, Gemma Brown, says: ‘Maintaining a distance from others and practising good hand hygiene is a herculean task for many of the world’s poorest communities. We are very concerned about some of the poorest countries, where life is already difficult and there is little infrastructure to deal with coronavirus. Living in a crowded household in a densely populated community, such as a refugee camp, and having to walk a long way for water, makes it much harder for people to take apparently simple measures such as social distancing and increased handwashing. These become incredibly hard asks, piled on top of an already challenging daily life.’
She went on, ‘This is why we are so grateful to Sharon, Susana, Sophie and others like them around Northern Ireland who are fundraising or donating to our appeal: the generosity of the NI public is enabling us to carry out life-giving work amongst the world’s poorest communities.’
Committing to running 180km is no small feat for the Jones family, but Sophie says ‘Knowing that our family and friends have been supporting us by donating money is a great reason to get up in the morning and run to make a difference to individual lives. Running with this team of people all working towards one goal is something really special to be a part of, especially in these strange times.’
Around the world Tearfund is carrying out targeted hygiene promotion and education often via social media, constructing taps and water tanks, distributing essential hygiene kits and improving sanitation, distributing food to vulnerable people, and responding to psychosocial needs, as well as delivering emergency aid to the most vulnerable people and their communities. Tearfund is supporting its locally based partners and churches to respond to this pandemic, working in all the countries where it has a presence, to minimise the risk of infection.
Tearfund’s hygiene training guidelines have already gone out to partners around the world, benefiting local communities. Resources are continually being developed, translated and published on Tearfund Learn. The charity is also in close contact with other humanitarian organisations to ensure they are drawing on the experience of the wider community, as well as coordinating to reach as many vulnerable communities as possible.