GIVING BACK - Pictured here is one of the classrooms in Afghanistan which was supported through the 100 Classroom Project via A Better World work.

GIVING BACK - Pictured here is one of the classrooms in Afghanistan which was supported through the 100 Classroom Project via A Better World work.

Fifth annual Freedom Run taking place next month

Funds raised from event support the 100 Classroom Project in Afghanistan.

The fifth annual Freedom Run will take place this year on June 1st to raise funds for A Better World’s 100 Classroom Project in Afghanistan.

The project works to build schools in the northern Afghanistan province of Jowzjan (Jawzan).

To date, 48 classrooms within four schools have been built and funds from previous Freedom Run events have totalled more than $65,000.

“I think it’s very important for us to validate the desire that these kids have to go to school,” said Project Manager Azalea Lehndorff of A Better World.

“For many kids, the alternative is either forced marriage or ending up being involved in extremist ideas. Providing an alternative is really powerful.”

Last year, the Freedom Run raised $16,000, which helped bring to creation an all girls’ high school. Two more schools will be constructed, providing an opportunity for 2,000 more girls to receive an education.

The Freedom Run contains 2l km, 5 km and 10 km distance challenges.

Walking, running and even baby strolling is welcome. Contestants can compete by themselves or as part of a team.

Lehndorff said this is an exciting milestone year, as upon completion of the new facilities, the 100 Classroom Project will be over halfway to its goal.

“Right now, we’ve completed 32 rooms. We’re trying to get the construction started on the next few schools. We do currently have all of the funding in place.”

The funds from this year are being allocated to new desks for 16 new classrooms. Each desk is only $50 and provides space enough for three girls to work. By the end of 2014, the organization will have completed 61 classrooms in Afghanistan.

“I’m guessing, if we can raise the same amount as last year, we can furnish all the classrooms for two schools, and we might have some left over to start a library or other service.”

Lehndorff founded the project after attending the Canadian University College (CUC) where she learned about the quality of life, education availability and specific needs in Afghanistan.

“I wanted to do something, so I connected with A Better World and launched the project in 2010. We’ve been doing ‘Freedom Runs’ since that time,” explained Lehndorff.

She added she would like to extend an invitation for volunteer services that still needs more hands on deck. Volunteers are needed to direct runners during the event, hand out water at water stations and early in the morning for race-day registrations.

Through fundraising, participants become eligible to win an iPad. Two will be given away – one for the highest fundraiser and one in a draw on race day.

Fundraising can begin before the event and there is no limit to how much a person or team can raise/donate.

“Last year, a fundraiser who won’t let me talk about him by name, raised over $2,000,” said Lehndorff.

She laughed, “It’s really cool, having people coming together to make things like that happen.”

Lehndorff added this is a cause especially close to her heart. She said her family was not in support of education, which led her and her sister to leave home as youths and support themselves through a boarding high school.

Lehndorff was later accepted into the CUC, which prompted her to seek out ways to reform education access in Afghanistan. She said the information she learned at college combined with her youth experience was what “Sparked something in (her).

“This project is really meaningful to me.”

Lehndorff’s positive impact has created the opportunity for nearly 8,000 children to have education access in Jowzjan.

At 10 a.m., the races begin. They will commence and finish at the Canadian University College Physical Education Centre, located on 6602 Maple Dr. in Lacombe.

Runners can register online and obtain pledge sheets through the Running Room web site, or register on site on race day. Also, those wishing to sign up can head into the A Better World office in Lacombe at #103, 5033 52 St. Preregistration is recommended, but not required.

“It’s a simple thing. We just go out and run, raise a little bit of funds but really make an impact. I think it’s worthwhile.”

kmendonsa@lacombeexpress.com