Book clubs are common. Not so common is when the material in a book touches a nerve so deep that a group feels compelled to take action. After reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, which reveals individual stories of the horrors that women and girls face in remote regions of the world, our book club was inspired to make a difference. Recognizing that education is the gateway to greater opportunity for girls worldwide, we established the Katonah Education Exchange Program (KEEP) in 2010 with a goal of keeping at-risk girls in school.
After researching partnerships with a variety of worthy organizations, KEEP joined forces with Apne Aap, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending sex trafficking in India. KEEP is currently supporting the education and protection of 130 girls, ages 10 – 16, in Bihar, India. Without the help and protection provided by Apne Aap, many of these girls would be sold into brothels. In addition, KEEP has established a pen pal program which matches local families, students and teen girls from the Boys and Girls Club with girls in Bihar. Through financial support and correspondence, we hope to provide an incentive for the girls in India to stay in school, gain a global perspective and, most importantly, to feel valued and respected.
In one of KEEP’s proudest moments, our younger members founded Students For KEEP as an official club at John Jay High School. Watching the next generation embrace this project with such enthusiasm, passion and understanding is awesome. Their drive to raise awareness and get deeply involved in this humanitarian campaign for social change is both exciting and inspiring.
KEEP is honored to be chosen as a recipient of the funds raised by the Running Goddess 5K at Lasdon on June 2nd. Working with The Running Goddess team has been motivating, exhilarating and fun! The growing involvement and support of our local community (donors, sponsors, volunteers and genuine believers) has been extremely encouraging. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Our friends at The Running Goddess recognize that empowering women and girls worldwide, whether through education or sport, is the most important action that can be taken in the world right now.
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to explore small pockets of the world while running on open roads, hidden pathways and dusty trails across the globe where your senses and conscience are aroused in remarkable ways. In addition to observing and appreciating historical and cultural differences, landscapes and lifestyles, it’s hard not to recognize that there is a world of women and children who are stigmatized and marginalized by poverty — people whose freedom is bound to circumstances based on culture, religion and economics. Along those back trails through rice fields, rugged mountains and jungle villages there is both beauty and suffering. Experiencing first hand some of these impoverished rural communities sensitized me to problems that were unimaginable back at home. Participating in the Running Goddess 5K Race is one way to take part in the growing movement that recognizes the power of girls’ education in creating positive change for at-risk girls, their families and their communities. Whether you are a life long runner, a beginner, or on a mission to help, come run, walk or skip for those who don’t have the freedom to go to school…let alone enjoy the physical and emotional benefits of running.
Whether starting up (or getting involved with) a non-profit, a running organization, a high school club or a new sport, if you’re truly passionate about the cause, motivation to act comes easy. After taking the first step, the adrenaline kicks in and your ambition to reach your goal(s) is accelerated. Going through the process with resourceful, encouraging and optimistic people helps to keep your enthusiasm elevated and your vision clear. Doing something good makes you feel good…and it can be highly contagious!
Katonah Education Exchange Program (KEEP)