MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota-based American Refugee Committee (ARC) is once again redefining how to reach out to refugees by hosting the first-ever World Refugee Day 5k race in a Uganda refugee camp later this month.
And ARC isn’t stopping there. Instead, it's turning the June 20 event into an opportunity to both raise money for refugees while spreading the word about their stories. The international development organization has invited several key social media “influencers” – people with a large social media following – to join them for the journey.
“I almost feel like everything I’ve done has built up to bring me to this point because now I have this audience where I can share the story,” said Jill Emmer of Edina.
Since Emmer started her Instagram account a few years ago, more than 117,000 people have followed her colorful and creative images. The self-described “minivan mom with the iPhone” quickly distinguished herself with her eye for raw, real and colorful moments in life. And the photographer hopes to bring that same quality with her to Uganda.
“What I hope to do is close that distance by showing that no matter where you go in the world, including this refugee settlement in Uganda, people are people. So hopefully I can capture some joyous moments, some joy, everyday moments that make you feel like it could be something you see here,” she said.
Meantime, the 5k race itself is an opportunity for refugee teams of runners to raise money for projects designed by the refugees themselves. More than 40 teams have signed up to run for projects that people can sponsor; the projects range from a women’s basketball team running for first aid kits, to acrobats running for mats and juggling equipment, to school teachers running for basic sports equipment.
“An organization like ARC, we’re providing food or water or shelter in these kinds of situations. And every time, in every community, kids are always saying we want to play. We want to be involved in sports,” said Brent Love of the American Refugee Committee about the organization’s decision to host the event.
More than 1,000 refugees and supporters from around the world will join in the race, including members of the Refugee Olympic Team from Rio. And people at home can also join in the event. A race sponsor – Dahabshiil – has pledged to donate $1 to ARC for every like, share or comment on the American Refugee Committee Facebook page.
For more information about the event, how you can support the individual refugee teams or contribute to the $1 donation-drive, click here.