World Vision Goodwill Ambassador and professional endurance athlete Samantha Gash today kicks off a global relief run to raise lifesaving funds for the people of India devastated by COVID-19.
The ultra-running athlete was moved to respond as the second wave ripped through a fragile health system. In India, COVID cases are close to 30 million while the death toll is nudging 365,000. While the second wave hit India’s cities hard, it is now ravaging the countryside wheer people are more vulnerable and health infrastructure is sparse.
Relief Run will be held from today (June 11) to Sunday as a virtual run allowing participants all over the world to run (or walk) 5km, 10km or a half-marathon at a location and time that suits them. Groups across schools, corporates and communities are encouraged to create an event and support the cause.
All funds raised will go towards the World Vision’s COVID -19 India crisis appeal, which is responding to lifesaving needs for equipment and supplies including beds, oxygen concentrators, food vouchers and tents for temporary COVID-19 care centres.
Gash, a social entrepreneur and former Survivor contestant, is the co-creator of Relief Run, which last year raised more than $1 million in support of Australian bushfire relief efforts.
Her connection to India is personal. In 2016 she completed Run India, an incredible 3200km run from the west to east of India to raise funds for World Vision education initiatives. During her three-month journey, she visited some of the country’s most poverty-stricken corners, forging lasting relationships with the families and children she met.
With India still in the grips of a second wave, the fundraiser cannot come soon enough, said Gash.
“The scale of the tragedy in India is heartbreaking, but I feel confident the generosity of Australians can make a difference,” she said.
“I think every one of us has some connection to India and is devastated by the ever-increasing scale of loss. It is heart-wrenching to see the endless suffering of individuals and vulnerable communities that are now at even greater risk,” Gash said.
“When Australia was devastated by bushfires in 2020, the global community came to our aid. Now it’s time for us to pay it forward.”
World Vision is working is working in some of India’s worst-hit areas and has significantly boosted its response due to urgent and escalating lifesaving needs.
The coronavirus death toll in India is now almost 370,000, yet experts fear the official number is a gross underestimate.
With Australians supporting more than 23,000 children in India and their communities through sponsorship programs, World Vision CEO Daniel Wordsworth said he had faith in the kindness of Australians, and encouraged them to sign up for this year’s Relief Run.
“India and its people hold a special place in the hearts of Australians, and Samantha’s initiative gives us all the opportunity to stand in solidarity with them,” he said.
“We are very grateful for Samantha’s support, and her willingness to use her platform again and again to help others.
“I implore you to register for this run so we can help the people of India work towards an end to this grave humanitarian crisis.”
Relief Run is partnering with life, health and wellbeing insurer AIA Australia to help stage the fundraiser in cities and towns across the nation.
After seeing the profound impact Samantha made with the bushfire Relief Run last year, AIA Australia and New Zealand chief executive and managing director Damien Mu said he was proud to be involved in this effort for India.
“When Samantha brought the idea of the Relief Run to us, there was no question in my mind that AIA should be involved – this was simply about doing the right thing,” he said.
“We have colleagues, friends and family directly impacted by the crisis in India, and I believe it is our responsibility to make a difference however we can.”
AIA Vitality Ambassadors are getting on board with the run, including Bec Judd, Shane Crawford, Alisa Camplin and Laura Henshaw.