Robin Steckley of Stouffville has more than one reason to compete the upcoming Boston Marathon.
Crossing the finish line of the 26-mile event April 19 will give the mother of 11-year-old twins a strong sense of accomplishment. It will also help Mrs. Steckley raise money for an impoverished East African village.
Stouffville Igoma Project matters a great deal to the 45-year-old runner. A few months ago, Mrs. Steckley issued an appeal to friends, neighbours and strangers to send in pledges linked to the marathon.
Mrs. Steckley’s goal is to raise $15,000. So far, $8,350 has been pledged. Every penny counts, she pointed out.
The latest donation, a $1,500 gift, came from the Stouffville Lions Club. She appealed to council for support at Tuesday’s meeting.
Mrs. Steckley took on the Igoma project as a personal initiative because she cares about the 42,000 people living in the poverty-stricken east African village.
Mrs. Steckley took notice last year when Stouffville Missionary Church, where she worships, urged the town to enter into a humanitarian partnership with Igoma.
The prompting paid off: endorsed by council and backed by the provincial and federal governments, the project kicked off in late December.
“It’s the first time a town agreed to look out for the needs of another town,” project chairperson Peter Neufeld said. “SIP’s primary goal is to improve the quality of life in Igoma. The people of Igoma need our help. Life is especially difficult for the children.”
The average income of a Stouffville family is $90,000 a year.
“The average yearly income of a family in Igoma is $300,” Mrs. Steckley said. “People living in our part of the world are truly privileged. We have so much and yet take it all for granted.”
The average life expectancy in Igoma is 45 years.
“I am tow months shy of my 46th birthday and my life is blossoming,” Mrs. Steckley said. “It’s hard to imagine that in Igoma, the adult’s life is drawing to a close at the same age.”
A recently completed medical centre in Igoma still needs equipment and supplies. Money raised at an all-faith church service at the Stouffville Country Market in December bought a $3,000 malaria detector.
Since malaria is the No. 1 killer in the village, the detector is being well used, Mr. Neufeld said. “So much is needed yet,” he said.
Other equipment such as a diagnostic ultra-sound machines, valued at about $4,000, and examination kits, about $800 each, are on the must-have list.
Mrs. Steckley thinks about Igoma’s health clinic when she does her weekly training, running 95 kilometres. To qualify for the Boston Marathon, Mrs. Steckley ran a 26.2-mile marathon in Ottawa in three hours, 48.59 minutes. The minimum to qualify was three hours, 50 minutes.
Mrs. Steckley had to submit an outline of the Igoma project to receive permission to collect donations. She received the go-ahead.
By Joan Ransberry
Staff Writer, Stouffville Sun-Tribune