For immediate release: June 2009
Brits Prepare for Running the Sahara in 2011 in support of
Arts and human rights charity Sandblast launches its UK-wide Running the Sahara campaign for 2011 to raise funds and awareness for the plight of the indigenous Saharawi people of Western Sahara.
London, June 14, 2010 – “The sun rains down its unforgiving rays, everything tastes of sand and our feet are as sore as they’ve ever been”, says Weisi Guo, participant in the 2010 race, “but we have all left a piece of our heart in the Sahara dunes.”
Guo was one of the 32 people who joined charity director Danielle Smith on this adventure to the refugee camps on last February for the 10th Saharamarathon, the largest ever UK contingent to participate in the event.
As the official UK facilitator, the charity Sandblast’s annual fundraising project Running the Sahara connects the British people to the reality of close to 200,000 Saharawi refugees through the international sporting event known as the Saharamarathon.
Not to be confused with the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, the Saharamarathon takes place every year in the Algerian Sahara in the Saharawi refugee camps near Tindouf. Organized by the refugees themselves and volunteers from around the world, the solidarity sports competition has been growing from year to year. In its 10th edition in 2010, it attracted more than 400 participants from over 22 countries with an almost equal number of Saharawi refugees participating in it, including Saharawi triple gold medallist Salah Amaidan who won the 10km.
In 2010, the UK contingent raised more than £20,000 for Sandblast’s Saharawi Artist Fund, which finances activities in the camps to empower the refugees to tell their own story, promote their own culture and earn an income through the arts.
Sandblast’s founding director, Danielle Smith, explains, “protracted refugee situations like the Saharawi one suffer from oblivion, donor fatigue and trends that threaten their culture and identity. We focus on the arts because it is a medium with the greatest potential of harnessing global attention and recognition for the Saharawi plight and culture in a positive and inspiring way.”
In the next two years, Sandblast will aim to empower the Saharawis to present their culture and earn an income through their music in the form of the Studio-Live project. Danielle affirms, “there is huge talent in the camps. Saharawi music at this juncture most powerfully expresses their identity and struggle in a way that can reach global audiences and connect with musicians from all over the world.”
Information and details on the Running the Sahara campaign and how to sign up are available on the charity website at www.sandblast-arts.org/projects/running-the-sahara or get in touch with the Campaign Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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To find out more please visit the Sandblast website at www.sandblast-arts.org.
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Notes to Editor:
- On Sandblast: Sandblast is an arts and human rights charity working with the indigenous people from Western Sahara, the Saharawis. Their identity and culture is threatened by the impact of protracted exile and Morocco's integrationist policies. It is our mission to empower the Saharawis to tell their own story, promote their own culture and earn a living through the arts.
- On Western Sahara: In a barren corner of the Algerian Sahara, close to 200,000 Saharawis have been living as refugees since the 1975 Moroccan invasion of their country, Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony in NW Africa. Despite the extreme hardships of their exile, the Saharawi refugee community has managed to build a vibrant, democratically run nation-in-exile, where women play a prominent role in all sectors of life, defying many Western preconceptions about Arab-Muslim societies. The Saharawis seek their independence in Western Sahara and have been waiting for the UN to implement the long promised referendum for their self-determination, originally scheduled for early 1992.
- On the Saharamarathon: This international sporting event evolved as a way to show solidarity with the Saharawi people and raise money for projects to improve the lives of the refugees. Organized by representatives of the Saharawi government and volunteers from all over the world, the first Saharamarathon was held in 2001. The event is also child-friendly. There is a race for children which takes place in one of the camps and many Saharawi children, 10 years and older, join in. AIMS (Association for International Marathons and Distance Runs) has sponsored this race over the past few years. Many of you will think it insane to run in the Sahara and fear baking to death. Don’t worry February is a mild month and the event is very well organised. Participants will be transported to the start of each race. The courses are marked with flags and stones, the terrain is mostly packed sand and is largely flat. There will be all the usual forms of support like regularly spaced water stations, four-wheel drives to provide assistance and medical assistance is provided by the International Red Crescent. The event has been growing each year and broadening its base of International participation. In 2010, nearly 1000 people ran in the Saharamarathon races from all over the world. For more info check: www.saharamarathon.org
- On Running the Sahara: Sandblast officially promotes the Saharamarathon in the UK with their campaign Running the Sahara. It facilitates participation in the event as well as raises awareness and funds for its arts ands cultural projects in the camps. 2011 Running the Sahara will be Sandblast’s third fundraising campaign in a row.
- On Salah Amaidan: His remarkable career began under the Moroccan occupation in Western Sahara and his life story is currently being made into a documentary by UK production company Tourist with a Typewriter. He dreams of participating in the 2012 London Olympics.