March for Malawi raises money for African orphanage

Tiffany Westrom

“Ndimakukonda,” a few children whispered into senior Karissa Hrbek’s ear. The Ames native, who traveled nearly 9,000 miles from homema, was being told, “I love you” in the East African language, Chichewa.

“Every night at the Leatha Orphanage we would start a campfire and all of us students and kids would sit around it for hours, simply because there was little else to do when the sun goes down in Africa,” Hrbek said. “We would spend all day interacting and playing with the kids, but we simply couldn’t get enough of each other — we would have up to three children on each lap, and a few sitting at our feet as we would spend the night learning more words in Chichewa.”

The senior in child, adult and family services traveled with four other ISU students in 2010 to work with 29 young orphans in Malawi, Africa, the seventh poorest country in the world. With a population of around 12 million, the country is home to over 1 million orphans who lack clean drinking water, proper nutrition and school uniforms in addition to facing diseases such as AIDS without the comfort of their mothers and fathers.

“We work directly with 29 children at our specific orphanage, but the communities we reach out to are numerous, and they impact us greatly as well,” said Tess Smith, junior in anthropology, who visited the Malawi last summer and is the coordinator for this year’s race.

The third annual March for Malawi will be held on March 24 at 10 a.m. The 3.2 mile race will be a figure-eight around Ada Hayden Heritage Park in Ames. The registration fee is $15 before March 17th and $20 for late registration; prizes will be awarded to the top male and female athletes with snacks and refreshments available for all runners after the race, according to the race’s website.

The race was established to generate the necessary funds for ISU students to go to the Leatha Orphanage. These students teach in schools, bring clothes, lend helping hands and develop relationships with the people who work at the Leatha Orphanage and the children who call it home.

“When you run with a group of friends and are wearing a super rad costume, running suddenly becomes significantly less awful, bordering on crazy awesome,” said Isaac Schmidt, volunteer and senior in advertising.

The event has received great support from the Ames community in the past, boasting nearly 300 participants at last year’s race. The march, sponsored by Alpha Copies, Ames Racquet and Fitness and Real Estate Service Group Incorporated, boasts a fun and united atmosphere as runners celebrate the work that has been done and support the work that this year’s group will put forth to help offer the orphans of Malawi health, safety and affection.