Running for Refugees

Running is one of my favorite past times. I make it a point to run every time I am in a new place. Not only is running a great way to get to know a city, but it also helps me relax when I am dealing with stressful situations.

Study abroad can often be stressful. While it is a truly rewarding experience and I would recommend for every college student who has the opportunity to study abroad to take advantage of it, it isn’t always easy.

My daily run gives my day more structure and helps me start the day off on a good note or end on a good note(depending on when I decide to run on that particular day).

I wrote a blog post earlier about how I have been running and training with Belgrade Urban Running Team(BURT). We are all getting very excited because the Belgrade Marathon is coming up in about a week, on April 16th.

A picture of the start of the race(courtesy of Google Images)
A picture of the start of the race(courtesy of Google Images).

I have run one marathon before and considered running in Belgrade, but in the end I didn’t have enough time to train for the full marathon. Instead I am going to run the half.

The Belgrade Marathon has been held every spring in Belgrade since 1988 and is one of the biggest sporting events in Serbia. While running a marathon or a half just to run is a great experience, running for a cause helps motivate people during their training and can raise awareness about important issues.

The refugee crisis in in the news on a daily basis, yet it often seems far removed from our lives in the states. In Belgrade it is impossible to ignore the refugee situation.

I knew I wanted to volunteer to help in some capacity before I arrived in Belgrade. It took me some time to plug into an organization but in the past month I have been volunteering with an organization called Refugee Aid Serbia(RAS). The organization was started by local Belgraders due to a need they saw in the community.

RAS logo(courtesy of Facebook).
RAS logo(courtesy of Facebook).

Last summer the park across the street from the SIT study center was filled with families sleeping in tents who had nowhere else to go.

The park across the street form SIT last August (courtesy of Balkan Insight).
The park across the street form SIT last August (courtesy of Balkan Insight).

RAS has been working hard to provide warm meals, clothing, and support to as many refugees as they can. I have helped with their meal distribution several times am so grateful that an organization like this exists. RAS tries to fed between 150-200 people every night, but food is expensive and they rely solely on donations.

Finding ways to fundraise is important so they can continue to do the work that they do. Their “Run for Refugees” campaign is one way they have though of to fundraise.

Anyone who is running either the marathon, half-marathon of the 5k can join the RAS team. What this means is that you receive a t-shirt with the RAS logo and you try to raise money for the organization by getting people to sponsor you. Many organizations use races as a way to fundraise.

I am glad to be raising awareness about the situation in Serbia, as the situation here is not often reported on, or if it is the Balkans are simply mentioned as countries that refugees pass through but no attention is given to what happens while the refugees are here.

I will be explore the refugee crisis more during my independent study period. One the the reasons why I chose to study abroad with SIT is because during the final month of the program each student conducts an independent research paper on a topic of their choosing.

I really enjoyed this experience in Tunisia and am looking forward to the independent study month, though my project will be a bit different this time.

SIT Balkans is a bit different form other SIT programs because it has a journalism track. I chose to enroll in the journalism track since it is something I enjoy writing and was excited about the opportunity to conduct journalism abroad.

Our independent study period began on Friday. Several of my fellow students left for Sarajevo as they will be conducting research there. Since SIT Balkans covers Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo we are able to conduct research in any of the three countries. However, all of the journalism students are required to stay in Belgrade since it is a newer part of the program and SIT does not have connections for advisors in Bosnia or Kosovo.

I will write more about my project in my next blog but check out the website of Refugee Aid Serbia and the work they are doing.

Refugee Aid Serbia

 

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