Mannya Village Uganda

Photo Journal: Visiting Mannya with the Cotton On Foundation

Mannya Uganda

Mannya Uganda

Mannya Uganda

Mannya Uganda

Mannya Uganda

Mannya Uganda

The pictures in this photo journal are very special to me. They are from this past February when Jack and I visited Uganda. I keep them on my phone and look at them whenever I need a pick-me-up and a smile.

The schedule for our trip to Africa was planned around a visit to a remote area of Uganda called Mannya Village. Jack’s work partnered with the Cotton On Foundation to raise money by selling Hamish and Andy “gold” water bottles last year. All proceeds went towards a second outreach project, St. Jude Primary School, in Nabunga. We wanted go visit Mannya to learn more about the work that the Cotton On Foundation team is already doing in the community and their plans for the future.

The Cotton On Foundation started these projects in Uganda back in 2007. They don’t just provide aid to these people though, they empower the youth and mobilise communities, and are building futures through four major pillars: health, education, sustainability and infrastructure. The goal is to use all of Cotton On Foundation’s current contributions and resources in a way that will make the community able to continue, independent of Cotton On, on this path. Cotton On’s work is as much about strengthening the future as it about bettering the present.

I prepared myself for a heart wrenching and draining few days, but was surprised when I found myself completely uplifted and inspired the entire time. There is so much of contagious joy and optimism beaming out from the people of Mannya. They not only need the help, they want it. Everyone I met and spoke is positive and excited to take control and change their destiny.

During our time there, I realized that the picture of Africa painted for me growing up in the US is wrong, at least in this part of Southern Uganda. I’ve thought of it as a place that only contains sadness, misfortune and despair but the community of Mannya Village is far from all those things. The people are happy, friendly and welcoming. They have immense pride in what they do with the little they have. You should meet these people. I wish you could see the beautiful women dressed up in their Sunday best and the entire families’ dedication to get to 6am Sunday Mass service. I wish you could see the sparkle in the coffee farmer’s eyes as he explained how he takes advantage of Cotton On’s micro financing program. You should witness the way children carry out their responsibilities and I wish you could feel the deep, wide smiles of the 300 kindergarteners who now have a place to gain an education and someday change their world.

Give these people an opportunity and they will run with it; that’s exactly what Cotton on Foundation is doing now.

Some customers of Cotton On don’t even know the impact that they’re making. All you need to do to contribute is purchase Cotton on Foundation products online or at any Cotton On Store and 100% of the proceeds go to their various out-reach programs. Mannya Village is only one of the many projects that Cotton On Foundation is working on. There is so much to be done.

To learn more about the Mannya project, click here! To learn more about the Cotton On Foundation, click here. And to see more pictures from today’s Photo Journal, click through.

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hiking

Taking on The Narrows!

hiking

hiking

hiking

hiking

hiking

A lot of mental preparation went into committing to hike The Narrows at Zion National Park. I knew I would be fine physically. Of course I would be cold, wet and tired but we would rent all the proper gear, bring tons of snacks and warm clothe. It was my mental state that I couldn’t quite whip into shape.

The Narrows is one of the most unique and famous hiking trails that Zion National Park has to offer. The trail is positioned amidst the narrowest section of Zion Canyon and under the Virgin River. Exquisitly detailed 1,000 foot high-walls surround you as you make your way through the cold waters of the 20-30 foot wide river. Let it be known that, even during the driest times of the year, you will be hiking through some amount of water.

None of the above actually worried me. I was excited for the challenge.

It was the (verbal and written) warning signs about flash floods that had me shaking in my water proof boots. They went something like: “There is ALWAYS a chance of a flash flood” and “Don’t go in the river if there is a chance of a flash flood” and “A flash flood could occur even if there are blue skies above. Beware!”

I was so confused.

A flash flood is caused by water runoff during or way after storms. Because of the shape and texture of The Narrows, the water between those beautiful abstract canyon walls rises quickly and fills up with immense force leaving hikers stranded, injured and even killed. Even the lovely man we rented our gear from couldn’t give me a percentage of how safe we would be. He didn’t want “to be responsible” should anything “go down”.

No one else in our group seemed concerned by these threats so I (wo)man’ed up.

I am incredibly happy that I did because I made it through and lived to write this blog post! That day was one of my favorites of the entire six month trip. The only struggle came in knowing where to place my feet as I manoeuvred through the dangerous bits. It’s all so funny to me now. At the beginning of the hike every step I took was motivated by fear; I was careful, gentle and limited myself to befriending the edges of the river. It was a completely different story on the way back. I was jumping from rock to rock, gliding through the deepest parts of the river and even running after my sister without worrying about fumbling around like a loser.

We hiked The Narrows for nearly seven hours that day but when we got back to the start I was all like, “Wait – should we do it again?”

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Toronto Half Marathon

Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon 2015

They say that the best way to get to know a city is by walking it. We wanted to get real intimate with Toronto this weekend so we decided to run it instead.

This past Sunday Jack and I took part in the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon. Well, we did the half, not the full, but that’s just name of the event. I’m not trying to trick you. I haven’t built up the guts to commit to a full marathon… yet.

I always feel so inspired after taking part in events like these. Every single person that comes to participate is there because they want to be. They have either challenged themselves, believe in the cause they are running for. It’s a truly infectious atmosphere.

A friend ran her first half marathon this Sunday. She was never very active, never played sports and didn’t think she could do it. She trained for a year and not only did she finish the race, she beat the goal she set for herself. I got goosebumps watching the video of her crossing the finish line.

My goal for this run was to beat my previous time from The Age Run Melbourne last year. Unfortunately, I came in at 1 hour and 55 minutes and missed beating my time by one minute. The good news is that Jack killed it! He crossed the finish line at 1 hour and 40 minutes beating his last time by three minutes!

I’ve written a bit about it in previous posts (here and here), but I haven’t yet felt truly ready to run before a race. This time was no different. I’m proud of myself, but I should have prepared more. Trained more.

For the next one (typed like a true addict), my goal is to train properly and just let myself run.

(And as tradition would have it, click through for some terrible pictures from the run.)

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The Age Run Melbourne 2014

Run Melbourne

Sunday was a big day for Jack and I. We did the half marathon as part of Run Melbourne 2014. It was Jack’s first and my second.

If I would have had time on Saturday to put up my intended post, you would have read a story about a Debbie Downer who committed to the race months ago but didn’t feel ready for it. Jack and I are really competitive with ourselves. I was desperate to at least beat my previous time of 2 hours 6 minutes, Jack wanted to run it in under 2 hours (He was being safe. I knew he would do way better).

This past weekend was full of resting, eating the way a runner would (carbs and salt! yum!), getting all race essentials together, and creating our near-perfect running play list. We still didn’t feel ready.

The thing about running, for me, is that I’ll never feel race-ready. At the starting line, as the faster waves of people in front of me begin, I always end up cutting myself some slack. I have that last minute thought of ‘Oh, well, just make sure you finish the race.”

It was a completely different story at the finish line though. Jack was waiting for me after running the half in a total of 1 hour and 43 minutes. I beat my previous time by 12 minutes and ran it in 1 hour and 54 minutes. That’s not to be all showy offy, I’m just still shocked, giddy and hungry; and hoping it’s not all a big mistake.

I’m so proud of us and prouder to have had the honor of partaking in Run Melbourne. The atmosphere was contagious, the track was ravishing and medals are shiny ;). And what gorgeous weather we were lucky to get. The sun went up as we started the run and yellow flooded the city’s high-rises as we went through.

Even though I’m weak in the knees and getting to Fancy Hanks and Doughboys Doughnuts for a celebration feast was a struggle, I already can’t wait for the next half!

(If you wanna see what the race looked like from the point of view of a silly girl who misplaced her armband the night before and could not stop taking pictures with her phone during the run, click through!)

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