2012-05-04 / News

Mt. Ararat student group organizes run for Congo aid

BY DARCIE MOORE Times Record Staff

TOPSHAM — Mt. Ararat High School’s Student Leadership Advocacy Committee will host the Run For Congo 5K race Sunday to raise money for Working Villages International, a nonprofit organization.

The Working Villages International organization, according to SLAC president and senior Connor Scott, has roots in Maine. The founder, Brunswick native Alexander Petroff, works in the Ruzizi Valley region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to organization’s website, “The Ruzizi Project is located in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, at the northern tip of Lake Tanganyika, and across the border from Rwanda and Burundi. Home to some of the most fertile land in the world, the Ruzizi Valley was known as ‘the rice bowl of Congo’ before eight years of war from 1996 to 2004 destroyed its farms and infrastructure.”

“He’s teaching them how to plant and bring back agriculture and their way of life,” Scott said of Petroff.

Registration starts at noon Sunday, and the 5K race starts at 1 p.m.

Advance registration costs $10. Race-day registration costs $15.

The race will start in the high school parking lot area, and the course will be partially on roads and partially through woods. A guide will be posted at every turn to direct runners.

Bicyclists will lead and trail participants.

Prizes will be awarded to male and female winners in various age groups.

“And it really doesn’t have to be a run. You can walk it if you want, just come out and partake; help us raise money to advocate for those who don’t have a voice,” Scott said.

Organized by a student organization, the race is open “to anyone and everyone,” according to Scott. Some residents at The Highlands have told Scott they may come Sunday not to run, but to support the cause.

The race will happen rain or shine.

Pick up applications in the high school main office, find SLAC leaders Brian Johnson, Olivia Watson or Izzy Leon; or email mtaslac@gmail.com to request a form.

Donations will be accepted in bins at the race. Checks made out to Working Villages International can be mailed to Connor Scott, care of Mt. Ararat High School, 73 Eagles Way, Topsham, ME 04086.

The SLAC group is part of the Youth Advocacy Program and is one “of students, for students, by students,” Scott said. The Run For Congo is chaired by Mt. Ararat junior Brian Johnson.

According to the website (workingvillages.org), when Working Villages began agricultural production in Ruzizi in 2006, thousands of people were starving because they didn’t have the money to buy seeds. Using cutting-edge organic farming techniques, the people working on the Ruzizi Project now grow more than 200 varieties of crops. The Ruzizi Project aims to construct 20, 1,000-person farms by 2016, which will act as vocational training centers, “and to build an economic engine to fund the resettlement of WVI’s farmers on their own private 10-acre farms.”

The Ruzizi Project also manages processing and sales of crops, allowing farmers working for WVI to plug into established processing and distribution networks.


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