13 September 2010 – For the second consecutive year, UNMIS staff members participated in a half-marathon race between the towns of Agok and Abyei last Saturday to raise funds for homeless children in both communities.
Originally envisioned at a distance of 32 kilometers, the race was scaled back to 21 kilometres on account of heavy rains that preceded the start of the event on the morning of 11 September.
The brainchild of the Canadian UN Police Advisor Kirk DeSilva, the contest raised about US$7,000 in 2009 that was donated to UNICEF's office in Abyei.
Those funds purchased milk formula for homeless children and also paid for the evacuation of one ailing youngster to Khartoum to receive medical treatment.
Participants set themselves a fund-raising target of US$5,000 for this year's event, and UNPOL Team Site Leader Rob Haggarty said he was confident of surpassing that goal when the contributions are tallied next month.
UN military observers, UN volunteers and UNPOL staff members donned their trainers for the race, which began just before dawn and ended nearly four hours later.
The runners set off from the community of Abathok located south of Abyei, and as they approached the UNMIS compound the quicker participants slowed down to allow the others to catch up and cross the finish line together.
A four-member committee has been set up to disburse the funds, which have been earmarked for the construction of tukuls in Agok and Abyei to provide shelter for the homeless kids and give financial support to foster parents who will be hosting three five-year-old children.