The past year has had its fair share of missed opportunities, canceled plans, and bumps in the road. What is truly amazing, however, is the resiliency displayed by those who are willing to think creatively and adapt to this new world we all find ourselves in.
The idea for GiveLight’s “Chase the Light” Virtual Global Walk came to fruition as an answer to the necessary, yet unfortunate cancellation of another beloved annual tradition. For the past seven years, over 300 supporters of GiveLight have participated every year in a live walkathon, promoting an enjoyable and healthy activity to bring the community together for a good cause. A group of dedicated volunteers would spend months planning every last detail of the walkathon and investing over $1500 for park rentals and other expenses. The culmination of their efforts resulted in an enthusiastic turnout, and over $10,000 raised for GiveLight projects all over the world.
With the events of the past year still planted firmly in the present day, Dian and her team of GiveLight supporters decided not to focus on what could have been but instead chose to center their efforts on creating a comparable event that maintained the spirit of a live walkathon, but within the restrictions of a post-Covid world. Inspired by a similar event in Baltimore known as the Ummah Walk, what resulted was a hugely successful virtual challenge that brought together participants from all walks of life and every corner of the globe in a way that a live event could never have accomplished.
Dian’s initial goal of finding 20 participating teams was not only met but was far surpassed.
Ultimately 72 teams from five continents managed to walk/run an astounding 6000+ miles! This diverse and expansive group of participants represented not only teams of volunteers, but also 18 GiveLight teams from Morocco, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.
The children of these homes were eager to participate and also looked forward to a healthy dose of competition with their beloved mother Dian. This motivation led to the children walking until their feet hurt, with homes in Bangladesh alone walking over 900 miles. Amazingly, the Global Walk was not only cost-free but managed to raise a staggering $50,000 for GiveLight homes across the globe. Thanks to the relentless efforts of the participating teams, as well as the generous donors who sponsored the athletes and donated for each mile completed, the Global Walk raised more than enough money to provide iftars for the children in GiveLight homes, as well as gift each child with new clothes and shoes for Eid.
Anyone who knows Dian knows that first and foremost, she leads by example. After carefully putting together a group of five dedicated women, Team GiveLight HQ came to life, with each member bringing a spirit of tenacity, passion, and determination. “I pushed myself to walk like never before in my life,” recalled Dian at the conclusion of the eight-day challenge. By using the faces and stories of the children served by GiveLight as inspiration, Dian and her teammates were able to push themselves past their limits, both physically and mentally.
As a member of Team GiveLight HQ, Rehmat Kharal knew what awaited her every night around 6:00. It was around this time that Rehmat’s husband and children would push her out the door of her San Jose home, knowing full well that they would not see her until she completed her daily goal of 10 miles. It was this determination and willpower exhibited by Rehmat and her teammates that ultimately resulted in a first-place finish, with over 396 miles walked collectively.
Although Rehmat can be found outdoors most days, either hiking, jogging, or walking, the mission of this global walk struck a far more personal note. As a GiveLight supporter from its inception, Rehmat drew motivation from knowing that all the time, effort, aches, and pains would eventually lead to a better life for the children supported by GiveLight. “To me, GiveLight is about giving children an extended family, kinship, and a home,” Rehmat said at the conclusion of the virtual event. “When you know you are walking to raise funds for innocent young children, the motivation becomes innate.”
“To me, GiveLight is about giving children an extended family, kinship, and a home,” Rehmat said at the conclusion of the virtual event.
“When you know you are walking to raise funds for innocent young children, the motivation becomes innate.”
What is truly remarkable about this particular event is the sheer will and determination exhibited by each participant, even in the face of challenges. Team members only had eight days to complete as many miles as they could, all while balancing busy lives full of commitments and responsibilities. Nia Iman-Santoso, an avid runner from Team IRUSA spoke of needing to divide her time between “work, running, managing the house, feeling tired, and having no energy.” Despite these hurdles, Nia was still able to complete 66.8 miles, helping her team reach an impressive 6th place finish with over 282 combined miles. “We just love running, and we love running for a good cause,” explained Nia. “We hope we can also inspire others to run and to do something good with running.”
The many participants in the global walk came with their own diverse set of experiences and skills, and yet each was able to motivate one another for a common goal. Whether an ultra runner or a leisure walker, all team members pushed themselves to their personal limits for the sake of helping children in need. Nia wanted to draw special attention to her teammate Rini Sugianto, who ran an impressive 36.39 miles in one day alone, despite spending part of the week traveling between Utah and California. It is truly amazing to see what the body can accomplish when the mind and heart have a higher purpose.
It is impossible to speak of this event without also putting it in the context of the past year and the effects that the pandemic has had on the global community. Siema Zia of Los Altos, California spoke of her desire to raise funds for the children in GiveLight homes, who undoubtedly have also been impacted by the events of the past year.
Siema sprang into action and established both Team Fast and Fierce 1 and Team Fast and Fierce 2, as well as a team in the United Kingdom. She quickly realized that her teammates shared a similar desire and that they very quickly smashed past the goals they had initially set for themselves. Siema alone contributed over 125 miles to her team’s grand total of 365 miles, leading Team Fast and Fierce 1 to a second-place finish. “The team realized that the more we were walking and gaining momentum, we were even more motivated to raise funds for the orphans,” Siema explained.
Siema and her fellow teammates reached out to their families and friends to sponsor their mileage, which further motivated them to continue surpassing their own expectations of what was possible.
“Every step we took came with the realization that we were doing this solely for the beautiful children in all the homes, particularly for the month of Ramadan,”
Siema asserted, adding that both Team Fast and Fierce 1 and Team Fast and Fierce 2 were able to raise a combined $2300 for the children of GiveLight. Reflecting on the experience, Siema acknowledged the physical toll the past week had on her and her teammates. “We were all exhausted by the end, but the determination that this was for a beautiful cause close to each of our hearts pushed us beyond our limits. At the same time, despite the physical exhaustion, we had the contentment in knowing that we each did our best.
The determined men, women, and children who participated in the “Chase the Light” Global Walk did so knowing that it would not be a simple task. They worked through illness and injury, literally giving their sweat, and sacrifice to a cause that was so much bigger than themselves, all while keeping the faces of the children at the forefront of their efforts. What began as a substitute for an annual tradition evolved into a powerful movement, and God willing, “Chase the Light” will attract even more participants in years to come. Thanks to the unwavering spirit of these focused and resilient individuals, hundreds of children all over the world will not only feel the blessings of Ramadan but will also know of the love that poured from the hearts of each participant with every step taken.
Thank you Mariam Sami for the wonderful write-up. Special thanks to our sponsors for supporting this event and for contributing to GiveLight’s mission.