by Karli Zschogner
In May, a group of 10 volunteers met up in Halifax for Atlantic Canada’s largest charity race at the Blue Nose Marathon. Specifically, they ran in support of the Breaking the Silence, an organization that coordinates relief efforts in the Central American country.
“I run as a gesture of solidarity to my brothers and sisters in Guatemala,” says Maritimes-Guatemala BTS Network volunteer Marla LeBlanc from Moncton. She ran the 10K along with 13,000 other participants over the race weekend. “It’s a demonstration of resilience, something the people in Guatemala know all too well.”
Breaking the Silence for Tatamagouche Centre was one of 65 official registered charities under the Blue Nose Charity Challenge. It was one of the few Charity Challenge recipients that focused on the rights of individuals outside of Canada.
LeBlanc says because she frequently commutes to different cities for work, the Running Room is a necessity for her. As part of her training, she participates in Wednesday night Run Club outings in the different cities she visits. “Running makes me feel mentally and physically strong,” she says, adding that being able to run for the volunteer work she believes in so deeply is “a match made in heaven.”
The BTS solidarity network was established in 1988, during the height of the 36-year Guatemalan internal armed conflict. Recognized as genocide towards mainly the Mayan Indigenous peoples, the voluntary group has continued to help families affected by the killing or disappearance of over 200,000 people. Through fundraising, the Maritime contingent began providing urgent action advocacy and safe passage accompaniment for refugees. Today, they support Guatemalan networks under threat for their social justice work including legal support of sexual violence cases, Canadian mining and fair trade coffee farmers.
Kathryn Anderson, the co-founder of the Maritimes-Guatemala BTS network, walked the 10K. “I walked in the Charity Challenge because Breaking the Silence represents advocacy work and solidarity for human rights,” she says. “It is meaningful to put my feet where my heart is and where my social justice commitment is.”
For more information about BTS, visit www.breakingthesilenceblog.com.