Nuns on the run raising funds

Updated: 2011-10-23 08:04

By Clare Pennington(China Daily)

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 Nuns on the run raising funds

The nuns in the Sisters' Run project ran hard for fundraising. Provided to China Daily

The sight of 46 nuns running across Beijing is not a common sight. A sector of society who keeps a low profile, not least because of their sex, many nuns doing charitable work have little public presence. However, last week these women from around the country ran in the Beijing Marathon, taking to the capital's streets in a bid to raise money for 14 projects in China's countryside.

Lei Lujia, still flushed with excitement hours after she completed the full 42km run beamed, "I am really pleased that I managed to finish the whole marathon. But I still feel a lot of pressure - I have yet to raise enough by Nov 1 to ensure our elderly care group gets the van I'm running for."

She is raising money for the project Wheels of Love, which aims to provide a large vehicle allowing her group to spend more time caring for the aged poor and sick, rather than on the road to their homes.

"Many of the elderly who need our help are spread out and live very far away", she added.

Six nuns ran the whole marathon, while another 40 completed a 9km section. Many of the projects these nuns were running for are self-initiated. Some are for care and support of AIDS sufferers and their families.

Another group of nuns operate homes for congenitally disabled orphans. They are raising money to pay for heating in the home.

Ren Jingsha, 23, is studying ophthalmology in Beijing in order to bring much needed skills back to her village in Hebei. She is running in the hope that the rural eye clinic she volunteers at will be able to afford more equipment. Her exams are coming up in just one week.

In the wake of the scrutiny attracted by the Red Cross of China following the Guo Meimei scandal, the Chinese public is more wary than ever of giving money to charities, something Father Joseph Loftus, founder of Bricks: The Great Wall Appeal, said should be a "wake-up call" to many organizations.

The nuns were running for the charity Sisters' Run, managed and supported by Bricks.

Bricks emphasizes the need to explain in advance the specific purpose of their fundraising efforts, while encouraging the women to be bolder when out soliciting funds. As one nun pointed out, "many people in China now have a lot of money, but they don't get enough information on where they can put it to create some good in society. We hope our stories can open their hearts to care about the poor people who might seem very far away from them and their lives."

A sister who works with the elderly in Shanxi spends a part of her packed day working farmland. She and others grow crops to feed the elderly poor, in addition to which they provide cooked meals, clothing and emotional support.

Despite the added drain on their energy, she remained adamant about the need to fundraise using new methods like marathon running. As Father Joseph points out, the nuns are not only raising funds but also achieving a sense of empowerment with which they can reach further and do more.

When asked what she thought about running and how it related to her role as a woman in her rural society, Sister Cui Mingxia from Hebei giggled.

The participating sisters, aged between 23 and 43, have more than quadrupled in number since the Sisters' Run project was initiated in 2009. The sisters need to raise 670,590 yuan ($105,283) by Nov 1, a sum they plan to distribute according to the needs of their various projects.

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For China Daily

(China Daily 10/23/2011 page15)