For many, September 23rd was a chance to jump over fallen trees, crawl through muddy tunnels and swim in ponds. For many children in Uganda, the Adventure Race, held at Camp Hargis in Birmingham, represented a chance at a better life.
“Run for a Reason” was the tagline of the 5000 meter race sponsored by Sozo Children, a nonprofit organization that uses the money to create homes for Ugandan children.
Sozo Children was created in 2010 by two college graduates: one named Allen Nunnally from Auburn University, the other named Jay Clark who graduated from the university across the pond.
The two friends traveled to Kampala, Uganda, with another organization, and witnessed the Ugandan government shut down an orphanage, leaving many children homeless. The sight was too horrific to ignore, so Nunnally and Clark had to step in. They started a new orphanage which included the youngest 17 from the original orphanage. As they transported the children, they told them, “Tubatwala Walungi,” which means, “We are taking you to a better place.”
That phrase was placed at the end of the race to be seen as runners crossed the finish line. It served as a reminder of why they were running the race. Also scattered throughout the path were pictures of all of the children at Sozo and descriptions about them to encourage the runners.
One of the volunteers helping the race was Katie Spink, current Auburn social work major. Spink was one of 21 interns for Sozo Children over the past summer. She lived at all three of Sozo’s houses for about three weeks each and spent time taking care of the children by loving on them, getting them ready for school, cleaning after them and sometimes helping teach school. Spink did chores alongside the children, including the 13-year-old boy named Esau whom she sponsors.
Spink was able to go on the first trip to Uganda with Sozo, and has watched Esau grow up in those two years. Since living at Sozo, his grades at school have greatly improved, and as the oldest boy in the first house he has taken on a new sense of leadership. The one-on-one relationship that Spink and Esau share has already greatly impacted both of their lives.
“The poverty that Esau and his community face has become my responsibility to deal with, in a humbling way,” said Spink.
Although the work could be frustrating at times, serving was her favorite part. On Wednesdays, the interns would go out into the community and serve the Ugandan people. They would deliver pairs of shoes to people, and in some cases those shoes were the first a child or adult had ever worn. To collect more shoes for the people of Uganda, the Adventure Race encouraged participants to donate their shoes worn in the race in by placing drop-off bins at the finish line.
Nunnally said that in the three times they hosted the race, the experience has been different every time. This year’s participants ranged from a soccer team of 8-year-olds to a 72-year-old to Air Force personnel from all over the world.
Even though Sozo was started by both an Auburn Tiger and a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, more Alabama students served as interns last summer. The interns came together as one family, but even so, Nunnally encourages his Alma Matter to step it up and come volunteer.
“Auburn students should never limit what can be done with their lives,” said Nunnally, “The truth is, the options are limitless.”