Day 295 and Beyond: HOPE RUNS And How You Can Help

Hope Runs

Training for the Annual Mt. Kilimanjaro Marathon with AIDS Orphans from the Tumaini Children’s Center in Nyeri, Kenya

For more information, see Pictures and Video Available


Current Sponsors

Purpose: The Hope Runs program has three main goals:

To start a committed running program at the Tumaini Children’s Center in Nyeri, Kenya. This will serve as a means of introducing the healthy benefits of running into the lives of children, and of providing a structured after school activity for these orphans.

To raise awareness about and funding for Kenya’s Tumaini Children’s Center through the public documentation of these orphans’ efforts to train to complete some portion of the annual Mt. Kilimanjaro marathon on June 24.

To collect books to create a working library in the local secondary school, as well as improve the small libraries of the Tumaini Children's center and the Primary School.


In Nyeri, Kenya, an orphanage exists where local children can get the food, schooling, and care they need. The Tumaini Children’s Center was started in response to the significant number of AIDS orphans that began appearing at the local primary school. As more and more children came seeking food, the members of the community parish stepped up to provide them with at least one good meal a day. As the numbers grew, and as the grandparents in the community became less able to serve as parents to so many children, the project expanded.

At Tumaini (Kikuyu for "hope"), every building is named something symbolic, and the philosophy of their projects melds together Florence's Duomo (use all your resources to build it, and you'll find more) and Shoeless Joe Jackson's Field of Dreams (if you build it they will come). They build a foundation, and then wait for more funding to come in to keep adding stories. With their sporadic donations, the Presbyterian parish overseeing Tumaini Children’s Center has built up a very well run orphanage for kids ages 3-18 (now with 150 empty beds for kids once more funding arrives), a smaller orphanage for disabled children, a brand new community health clinic, and an up and coming old folks’ home.

Why Running?

We first planned to use this community solely as a welcoming and comfortable base for climbing Mt. Kenya, but we had never seen a place so committed to community building and welfare. Read Claire's letter that lovingly coerced people to come to the orphanage with us here. As we recount here, we extended our stay, but still knew we had to come back with more resources. With experience in numerous types and examples of non-profit organizations between the two of us, we knew the real thing when we saw it. Starting from only hope and faith a few years ago, this parish has built something amazing. The kids are healthy, they eat three substantial meals a day, they are close to the elders of the community, and they play and scold each other like a family. We decided to go back, and we wanted to find a way to contribute something that further strengthened this feeling of community, and that helped the commitment to health and well-being that this organization had prioritized.

We had both just become serious runners—Claire training for a second marathon and Lara her first—and it had brought us considerable freedom and joy over the last few months. When the primary contributor to Tumaini from the U.S. suggested a running program as a way to inspire pride and focus in the kids, we knew it was the right idea.

The Kilimanjaro Marathon on June 24th is only a few hours and a few months away. Most conveniently, it is a race around the base of the mountain that circles the same track four times. Knowing we are training a group of varied age, ability, and commitment, we felt this was the best way to offer options for different lengths and time. We only expect a few of the teens to actually want to train for the whole thing, and we plan to host a smaller race for the much younger kids around the area of the orphanage to celebrate the running club. The point is that everyone is welcome to participate, and everyone will learn about safe and healthy ways to make physical fitness a part of their lives.

Logistics of the Hope Runs program:

From the first week of March through the race at the end of June, we will run with the kids five days a week on the dirt roads around the orphanage. In addition to actually just running with them, we will be focusing on stretching techniques and on teaching them about the health benefits of such a habit. There will be varied lengths of runs and different running activities to make sure that every child or every age that wants to remains involved and interested. For those interested in running the full or partial marathon, we take a conservative approach to training that focuses on completion rather than racing. This means that the mileage goes up slowly, keeping the emphasis on the habit of running rather than the speed or duration of the runs.

As a subsidiary to this program, we will be maintaining a daily website of our experiences with the kids that we hope to help involve them with. We hope to attract sponsorship and donors to help subsidize our work with the kids, but also the Tumaini project as a whole. While there, we will also be working with the orphans on reading skills, a newsletter and an art therapy program as a means to deepen our connection to this community and to improve these children’s practical skills.

We are absorbing all the expenses and consulting with more knowledgeable marathoners, physical therapists and nutritionists to make sure that we train the kids safely. However, along with the orphanage we would love to give the kids the support they need to make a real commitment to running through equipment, particularly sneakers.

What We Need:

1. Shoes: The orphanage struggles to find shoes normally, and in the face of high activity, we wanted to make sure to minimize injuries and maximize enthusiasm by providing literal support.

2. Books: If you've got a box of books - send them to us in Kenya! At 1 dollar per pound via Media Mail to get there, your old children's, teen, and adult books and a small shipping cost can go a long way.

3. Publicity: We want to spread the word about this amazing place as far as we can, both for inspiration and for the hope that support and donations will arise.

4. Financial Donations: We need to find a way to support shipping equipment, marathon fees, transportation and other costs. Anything beyond what we can use for the running program will go directly to the orphanage in its efforts to bring more orphans into the 150 currently empty beds.

How You Can Follow the Project:

Over the last year, we have kept a daily account of our travels, including our trip to Tumaini, at We have developed a loyal readership, and we will use this web-based format as a way of keeping the world in touch with our program’s progress through videos, writing, and audio updates!

Project Directors:

Claire A. Williams: With a B.A. and an M.A. from Stanford University, I work as an anthropology consultant with several different international volunteer organizations. I firmly believe in the power of such efforts to transform the lives of the individuals who take part in such endeavors – on both sides. Over and over again, it seems that doing something worthwhile in this world is not just about the money you give out, but the connections and experiences you have trying to do so. A volunteer's experience in another place in the globe can certainly be worth the cost of a plane ticket to get there, and in the long run such an expense really can do as much as or more than sending money abroad – since it helps transform the nature of our global citizens’ response to growth, aid, and healing change.

Lara Vogel: After graduating from Stanford University with a B.A. in Human Biology and International Public Health, I balked in the face of returning to school. I took the next logical step and took up writing. Most recently, I have spent my last year traveling to over twenty countries as a travel writer, but I am excited to be contributing my efforts to one project over the coming months. Having worked in health clinics around the world, I am confident in the positive effects that health education programs, particularly for children, can have on the health of a nation and certain of such work’s relevance.


Allie said...

This might be a lame question-- what language do the children in Kenya read? I have a BIG box of children's books in my attic that I intend to donate to charity after I graduate college and bum around my mum's home for a while. However, I could save up a little money every month to pay to have them shipped to the orphanage once I get back. They're books written in the English language, and most are fiction. Is it any books or just educational books that are needed?

trippingonwords said...

Not a lame question AT ALL.

English language books are what we're looking for...will update the post accordingly.

ALSO...we have people coming to Kenya over the course of the next year who could maybe bring some of the books over for you. Get in touch with us when you're back around. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!

Allie said...

Perhaps you could get in contact with any of the Better World Book partners for contributions?

I will definitely get information before I go home to Pittsburgh, PA, in June so that the books can be sent out ASAP :0) I drive to Pittsburgh and back from Savannah, GA. If anyone lives near I-95 between Savannah and Washington D.C. I could definitely meet up with them.

jm said...

Claire and Lara--kudos to you. What a wonderful, wonderful project...

Good luck. Will keep reading to see how things work out.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog many months ago on Karyn's website.

I may be interested in donating to your cause. Do you have a general email address?


Allie said...

"The best part of is that we get new, even snazzier email addresses. Now, you can write your daily diary entries to,,, or even, which is the one I'm sure that our tech buddy team of Will-Jonathan-Andy will be making use of."

This is from a couple of posts back. Hope it helps. They also have gmail address, but I don't know it off hand.

The Sumer Alvarez Foundation said...

thanks allie! we are so very thankful for all that you have been doing to work on the project!

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