Kodiak may seem an out-of-the-way place to start a Mother’s Day run to support women in the Congo. After all, the African nation is a world away.
But in this modern day of globalization, the effects of commerce stretch around across continents and oceans. Most people carry a piece of the Congo with them, Run For Congo Women organizer Patty Delate said.
The mineral coltan mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is used in the production of cell phones, laptop computers and digital cameras, but has also been cited as fueling conflicts in the Congo that have killed an estimated 5.4 million people since 1998.
“Somehow we’ve been desensitized to black Africa,” Delate said. “We see it as their fault because we don’t see our part in it.”
Delate has sisters in the Congo.
Their appearance wouldn’t tell you they are sisters. They’re not biologically related, but Delate writes to and supports the women, emotionally and financially, through the organization Women for Women International.
The place her sisters live has been called the worst place in the world to be a woman because rape is used as a weapon of war in past and continuing conflicts.
The Run For Congo Women, which starts May 8 at 2 p.m at Fort Abercrombie, attempts to make the life of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo better. Money from the Women for Women programs goes to give women in the Congo financial assistance, job skills training and assistance to recover from the trauma of what they’ve faced.
“They do support women around the world,” Delate said, “But we’re specifically sending the money to Congolese women.”
Kodiak residents can go to wwww.active.com and search Kodiak to register for the run. The entry is $25 for adults and $5 for students.
Delate said she has always been interested in human rights, but when her daughter Elisha began working in the Congo through the Mercy Corps, Delate tried to find out more about the country through the news — and found very little coverage in U.S. media about conflict in the Congo.
“My daughter would tell us stories about the internally displaced camps,” Delate said. “A million people in displaced camps. Can you even imagine that?”
In her quest to find out more about the Congo, Delate came across Lisa Shannon’s book “A Thousand Sisters.” Shannon is the founder of Women for Women International that sponsors the run for Congo Women.
“I read her book and I was really inspired by it,” Delate said. “I was inspired that, you know, she’s an American woman, 30-something years old, and yet she devoted her life to this. It really spoke to me and I thought it was remarkable because I think a lot of 30-something-year-old people are really selfish.”
Delate was visiting Anchorage when she saw that Shannon would be speaking there in January. Delate invited Shannon to speak to a book club here in Kodiak that was reading “A Thousand Sisters.”
“Before she had even come, I had decided I wanted to do a run,” Delate said. “I just thought that Kodiak’s a very athletic. There are a lot of runs here.”
Delate will participate in the 5-kilometer walking portion of the run herself, even though a year ago she shattered her femur cross country skiing. She was unable to walk for six weeks and said she still isn’t completely back to normal.
The experience was a life changing, Delate said, because she met death.
“When you go through an event like that, you say, ‘What is my life worth?’” Delate said. “Certainly not to gain material things.”
In August, Delate will go to the Congo to visit her daughter and her Congolese sisters. She also plans to volunteer her skills as a nurse practitioner in a hospital that helps women recovering from the violence of rape.
“I believe we are all one. We’re all connected,” Delate said. “If somebody is suffering in the Congo and I have everything that I need — people are only happy when they share. And I think Kodiak is a community where people do share. Kodiak is a very generous community.”
Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via email at email@example.com.