Running with Refugees: A Volunteer’s Perspective

Today’s post is written by volunteer and guest blogger Ashley Brown.


Team CWS gathers for a pre-race picture.

The anticipated cheer from the front-runners marked the start of The Great Human Race, in Durham, N.C. In the middle of the pack were our refugees from Chad and Sudan with Church World Service volunteers. With broad smiles and curiosity of the runners’ high, they were excited to take part in their first organized 5k race. Holding up the rear, representing with a CWS placard, were our walkers. Our red and yellow shirts showed the urgency of reuniting families escaping turmoil in their home countries.

Out of courtesy, all of the CWS runners started out at the same pace. But it didn’t take long before our two Sudanese men were no longer in eyesight! What’s my excuse for not placing in the race? Someone needed to stay behind with our 10-year old from Chad! Job was a pleasure to run with. With the heaviness of basketball shoes, he kept asking  the question that’s been repeated by kids for decades, “We almost there yet?” Apparently, this question spans cultures. With no mile markers to give us hope, I repeated,”Yeah, just around the corner… Ok, I think it’s after that building… Soon…” To take our mind off of the finish, we race to the tree, and then to the stop sign, and then the second parked car. Then suddenly, we began to hear the band playing in the distance, signaling that the finish was near. Just ahead we saw Job’s older brother, Janvier, coming back for us. With a few words from his big brother, Job picked up the pace and we challenged each other to a final sprint to the finish line, crossing at 39:40.


Ashley and the guys begin the race together.

Patiently waiting at the end of the race, were our two speed racers, unfazed by the 3.1 miles they had just polished off. What they were more interested in knowing was the winner’s prize. As untimed runners (without a chip), we will never know what place they came in. But I am sure that The Great Human Race was not the last for these runners!

The Great Human Race finishes with a block party, and the dancing begins as soon as the walkers make their way in. The refugees stood on the side studying the foreign movements of the “Cha-Cha slide”, “The Electric slide” and the “Macarena”.  As predicted, dozens of runners jumped in for these well-known tunes. As our foreigners nod along to the music, Berthe, Job’s mom, became the life of the party.  All smiles, she made up her own dance that was better than the pattern the rest of the dancers had been following.

So after months of fundraising, I’m sure you’re wondering whether it has paid off. Thanks to all of the donors and racers, CWS raised $3,990! This means that you all have made it possible to reunite EIGHT more families like Job, Janvier, and Berthe.

If you would like to make a last minute gift to CWS’s Family Reunification Program, make your check out to CWS-RDU with “Immigration” in the memo line. Checks can be sent to the office at 112 S. Duke Street, Suite 4B, Durham NC 27701.


CWS staff, volunteers, and clients walk in the fun walk portion of The Great Human Race.


One response to “Running with Refugees: A Volunteer’s Perspective

  1. Pingback: Running With Refugees | Can't Stand The Heat·

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