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A brief history of the SaharaMarathon Project
The first edition of the Sahara Marathon was born as a simple marathon, to give visibility to the Saharawi cause and express solidarity with this people.
It was attended by less than a hundred people, amateur runners, who reached the camps in small groups organized by associations of solidarity that already knew the reality of the Saharawi.
Participants were housed in families, as it is now, but each group or individual differently covered the expenses for their staying: some paid directly, some through their own saharawi delegate, some through the saharawi protocol.
Among the participants there were almost no Saharawis.
There was no funding of any common project, sporting or not.
During the week no other activities in addition to running were planned.
Registration for the race was around € 80.
The organizers, foreigners and Saharawis, were volunteers.
It was amazing. A seed of something that could be great, but soon we realized two problems.
The first was that it wasn’t an economically sustainable model: participants didn’t fully cover the costs of their stay in the camps, which were not only the compensation of the hosting families. The same compensation, different for different groups, created inequalities.
The hospitality of the Sahrawi is huge, as well as the importance of having visitors and the realization of this sporting event, but it was unacceptable for us to go to a refugee camp taking more than what we were leaving.
The second problem was that we weren’t laying anything for the future when we were leaving. There wasn’t a vision, an idea to build something together, tied to sports, to be developed in the following years.
For this reasons, after several attempts, we have reached a formula that guarantees the sustainability of the Sahara Marathon and its projects: the registration would cost € 200 per participant.
– 100€ are fully assigned to the expenses at the camps, as an aid to the families for their hospitality, to give economic aid to all Sahrawis participating in the organization, and to cover all the costs of the services, such as transport.
– 50€ are for the race expenses such as materials, T-shirt, medal, water and staff employed on the day of the race.
– 50€ are destined to a common sports project, to be implemented during the year. It can be a building, such as the sports school of Smara, the purchase of sports materials, or the organization of sports teams and sporting events.
The overall fee includes the payment for the charter flight, insurance and visa. In the flight we have to cover also the cost for the medical staff, the Saharawi invited runners and some journalists.
Once we have paid the flight, purchased all the stuff needed for the race and covered all the expenses at the camps, the surplus money goes directly to different solidarity projects.
Sahara Marathon 2017
After 16 years, in its seventeenth edition, the Sahara Marathon has been attended by more than 450 runners, of 29 different nations.
Among them more than 100 runners are Saharawi, and their level has increased to the point that one of them is fourth in the thoughest race, the marathon. And not behind three amateurs, but behind three champions.
The Saharawi champion, Salah Amaidah, participates every year in the 10km race, always winning it.
During the week-long stay at the Sahara Marathon camps various activities, of sport and cultural interest, are organized. For example in this edition:
– Children Race, 10th edition, where nearly 1,000 children participates in a non-competitive race getting all a shirt and a small prize
– The children’s Olympics, 3rd edition, where a children selection from all wilayas competes in 4 games: running, relay, throwing and weight launching.
– A guided tour with Saharawi guides, in english and spanish, to points of interest in Smara, to explain the Saharawi society: nursery, clinic, primary school, the disability center, the library
– A visit to the big Smara sand dune at sunset
– A visit to the Moroccan Wall, which separates the free from the occupied Sahara (in the past years visits to museum of war and of Saharawi history)
– Help to organize various activities proposed by the participants themselves, this year the courses of Ruffie, Yoga, and a room to test Virtual Reality
The “Associated Projects” flourished this year, projects carried out independently by some participants that after having been to the camps have decided to pursue their own personal project, in education, nutrition or health. If requested, we try to help to facilitate the realization.
But the most important part of the experience has remained the same all these years: the coexistence of the participants with the Sahrawi families, who host and take care of the visitors throughout their stay.
With the Saharawi authorities we established a sum to be paid to every Sahrawi family as an economic aid to host the participants, and this amount corresponds to 720 Algerian dinars per person per day.
It is a sum that has been judged right because it allows to host visitors and buy the food they need, allowing to have a small gain. It is also considered fair because it does not create excessive disparities with families that do not host participants.
The bottled water has been purchased by the organization, more than 7200 bottles, and must not be bought by the family.
Of course, as often happens, there are special links between certain participants who repeat the experience, and who want to add something to help the family further.
With the money raised by registration fees this year more than 170 families have been helped, because we need to keep in mind that we help not only the families that host foreign participants, but also those that host saharawi participants from other wilayas, and all the saharawi workers who could not return to their home every day.
Then more economic aid has been given to more than 100 sahrawis who worked for this event: the people at the water points during the race, the drivers, the cookers in the kitchens, and many others.
For all that the Sahara Marathon has left an amount of 25,700€ to the Saharawi authorities, accounting for all of these expenses.
Of this amount, here are some details:
10.540€ – Paid directly to the families by SaharaMarathon
893€ – To prepare the race course
1463€ – Food to prepare the pocket-lunch for arrival and wall trip
1240€ – Water
2086€ – Pay for general workers
1000€ – Pay for SaharaMarathon Saharawi team workers
The rest has been managed by the Saharawi government for all other expenses, expecially for transport (vehicles of all kinds, fuel, drivers), emergency room and medical personnel, security.
As for the race, the Saharawi participated without paying anything. Their cost is covered by the foreigner participants. As all the foreigner participants they have received the t-shirt, bandana, the medal.
The medals and awards are made in the camps in a ceramic workshop, as part of the Project Medals, a project funded in the past by the Sahara Marathon itself. Women working in the laboratory have received for their work 945€
We can say that the only portion of the money that is spent outside the camps is for T-shirts and medical products, the rest is completely spent at the camps.
As the main SaharaMarathon project for the year 2017, we’ll provide 12.766€ to develop the project for Promotion of Gender Equality in sport, which will reach more than 1.000 women with the development of a structured volleyball league in all wilayas.
With this project we want to find a solution to one of the most important problems, that is the issue of the lack of activity in the refugee camps, expecially for women, in the camps. It is important to make women aware of the importance of sport and its positive values as a tool to achieve a universal goal, which is Gender Equality within our society.
But apart from that and with your disinterested help, we invested the rest of the collected funds in the following projects:
6280€ for the 9 schools of Smara, in particular to:
– bring electricity to Nahnah school 800€
– bring electricity to Abda school 650€
– fridge and air condition in four schools 1350€
– photocopiers and printers 1350€
– cameras 70€
– computer 350€
– sound systems 650€
– funds to organize activities 500€
– sport material 160€
1545€ for the 5 schools of Bojador, to buy:
– 5 photocopiers and printers 750€
– 5 sound systems 365€
– material deportivo 100€
– office material 150€
– air conditioned 180€
1050€ for the disability school in Bojador
1000€ sport material
1000€ to the Rabouni Protocol for repairment of the building after the heavy rains
1000€ to the governor of Smara for the repairment of the anfitheater
1210€ three flights tickets to promote Saharawi athletes in exile
1300€ recycling project, small house made of plastic bottles to extend a nursery
200€ Centro especial de Smara for disability (Castro)
400€ Electricity to the clinic in Chderia
200€ Office material for the Daira of Chderia
1100€ Sport school of Smara, for repairements
330€ Sold turbantes Sahara Marathon for the School of Sport
To all this this, we would like to add the other projects led indipendently by some participants:
3250€ donated by Vicente Grande Duque to the libraries of Bubisher
10000€ to Dhakla to create jobs for the youth, financing the construction of a Pizza/Bakery shop, like the one already running in Auserd (financed by ElOuali-Bologna and 1514OltreIlMuro -Padova)
4000€ for buying milk goats for poor families ( financed by ElOuali-Bologna)
2500€ for the Boxing courses in the Resistir y Vencer Gym in ElAyoun and Smara
850€ a commission for the ceramic medals workshop, from Wilfried of the German group
We’re sure there’s more. If we forgot somebody, please write us and help us make this list the most complete possible.
This year contribute is the largest ever made by SaharaMarathon and its participants, let’s hope next year to do better.
The international group of volunteers who works in the organization of the SaharaMarathon does it for free, and everyone pays by himself all of his expenses.
The SaharaMarathon receives no subsidy, apart from those of its participants.
All this can be achieved thanks solely to your participation fee and your help, which is not the price of a simple race, but an experience of a week and a long-term project.
It’a matter of getting there together, or not getting there at all.