Many of my facebook friends recently received an invitation from me to sign up for a half marathon called “Wind Horse Half Marathon and Half Marathon Relay Run for Education.” I wanted to give a personal explanation of how this race has come about, what it means to me (and others), and why I’d love it if you could join us.
As you may know, I’m a huge fan of the Sister Cities program. I’m the secretary on the Bellingham Sister Cities Association board because I’ve experienced firsthand the way that person-to-person diplomacy works. Here’s how it goes:
My family meets a family from across the world (either in my town or in theirs) and we become friends. That family shows and explains life in their country to me, the shining cultural points along with the politics and the struggles. I explain the USA to them as I understand it. We leave our encounter enriched and expanded. Now when I hear on the news that my country has diplomatic issues with my friend’s country, I’m informed in a different way. The political becomes personal and vice versa.
So more than a year ago, when Bolor Smith approached me about her desire to get Bellingham to consider a new sister city in Mongolia (her home country), I was keen on the idea, and so was the rest of the board! Bellingham has deep connections to Mongolia. Our local university, Western Washington University, has a strong Mongolian language program and a library of Mongolian literature second to none in North America. Bellingham also has two nonprofit organizations devoted to preserving Mongolia’s oral history and mythology (The Sound Essence Project) and educating Mongolia’s children (Blue Sky Education Project), respectively.
I’m so pleased to say that this summer, Bellingham will sign a new sister city agreement with the city of Tsetserleg, Mongolia! A group of Bellinghamsters will be traveling there in August to sign the official papers (alas, I will not be joining them this year).
So why the Wind Horse Run for Mongolian Education? Well, education in Mongolia is complicated. Like in many nations, the lack of a uniform or the ability to purchase books can prevent a child from participating in school – even when public education itself is free. But in addition to that, many families in Mongolia are still nomadic to a certain degree—following their herds to where there is food—which makes educating children quite complex. Blue Sky Education Project raises funds for three things: school supplies and uniforms, teachers who travel to work with students who live too far from school to attend at a brick and mortar building, and college tuition to high school graduates who agree to become teachers after college.
The inaugural Wind Horse Run for Mongolian Education will focus on raising funds for school age students in Bellingham’s Sister City, Tsetserleg, so they can purchase school supplies and books.
I’m excited about this chance to combine several of my passions: running, sister cities, and education. This upcoming race was the brainchild of Bolor and myself as we ate a delightful Mongolian dinner at her house with our husbands. We came up with the idea only a few months ago and debated whether or not there was time to pull it off this summer before the delegates from Bellingham traveled to Mongolia. We’ve decided to go for it. This first year, the race will be extremely low key—lots of fun but no frills. We’ll have aid stations, bib numbers, mementos for finishers, music and food at the beginning and end, but there won’t be shirts or timing chips or awards. We want to get Wind Horse on the map and raise some money for as many kids as possible to attend school in Tsetserleg this next school year.
I hope you’ll join us (or donate if you can’t) and celebrate how intertwined we all are with others around the world, even before we ever meet them. It’s my belief that the best chance we have as a species is if we build real connections with others around the world.