One prison yard lap at a time, Bowden Institution inmates are helping others a continent away.
About 300 inmates — half the prison’s population — will join the Bowden Walk-A-Thon on Sept. 9 to raise $50,000 for two projects in Kenya overseen by Foodgrains Bank member World Renew.
This is the fifth year for the walk-a-thon, which raised $3,600 in its first year. Last year, inmates walked 2,000 kilometres in their prison yard to raise $30,000.
Prison Protestant Chaplain Bud Sargent said the success of the event is “quite remarkable.
“No other institution in Canada is doing anything quite like this,” said Sargent on Monday. “It’s grown beyond our imagination.”
The unique fundraiser has had support from the warden’s office right down to the prison population, he said.
“(Inmates asked themselves) how can they do something for someone else. To break the stereotypical idea of the selfish offender, how can we show we can care about people beyond ourselves.”
Money raised this year will go to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to support two projects. One will see nearly 2,000 farmers given help growing larger and better crops. The other project will provide emergency food rations for 12,000 people affected by a devastating drought.
Sargent said inmates understood the difference they were making when they saw photos of what their donations had accomplished. For instance, three years ago their donations went to dig 10 water wells in rural areas of Nepal devastated by an earthquake.
“They were standing around looking at these pictures saying, ‘We did this. We did this,’” says Sargent.
The number of inmates participating has tripled from the 100 who first took part. The inmates donate their own time to walk the yard, this year to music from a band.
An inmate named John summed up his thoughts on the annual effort.
“When members of the outside community join us in our efforts to give back to others in a meaningful way, that changes lives,” he says in a statement.
Peter Bulthuis, associate director of church relations at World Renew, expressed his enthusiasm for the ongoing fundraising effort.
“The inmates initiated something way outside of their day-to-day experience and have developed a community of partners …” he says in a statement.
To donate to the walk-a-thon go to www.worldrenew.net/bowden.