When Susanna signed up to run a half marathon for children living in poverty, she couldn’t run down her street. Not only did she finish the event, she learned 7 life-changing lessons that every Australian can apply (even if you don’t run a marathon!).
01 Jul, 2019
Meet Susanna—a mother of two beautiful children, wife to Mark and a self-employed entrepreneur. When Susanna stepped out of her comfort zone and signed up for a half-marathon with Compassion Australia, she had no idea what to expect. In her own words, she shares how the experience changed and challenged her.
1. GOD DOESN'T ALWAYS CALL THE QUALIFIED, HE QUALIFIES THE CALLED
When I felt the called to go to Uganda and run for children living in poverty, it took me over a month to say yes. I thought, ‘There’s no way I can do this!’
I couldn't even run down the end of my street without hyperventilating, had no experience in fundraising and was actually a little nervous of travelling to Africa.
What pushed me over the line were two things.
One was that I felt that God told me to go, so I had to be obedient. I also thought ‘Where do I want to be in six months? The same place I’m at now or having achieved something amazing?’ I didn’t want to be in the same place and I figured if God wanted me to go, then He would help make it happen!
2. BE OPEN TO A CHALLENGE
Be courageous and step out of your comfort zone!
This was my first half marathon and initially I found it pretty tough. Each new distance brought its frustrations, plus plenty of tiredness and exhaustion. But it was also an amazing accomplishment to see what I initially considered to be a ‘long run’ become my ‘short runs’ over time.
Many people say they can’t run, but they can! All they need to do is set a goal, give it time and just keep going.
I am continuing training and looking forward to my next half marathon in the near future.
3. IF YOU BELIEVE IN A CAUSE, TAKE ACTION
If you believe in something that will help others, then step out and do something about it—even if it’s hard and takes sacrifice. Running a half marathon and raising $10,000 wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew it was something I had to do.
I started training six months before the trip, but more seriously in the three months before the event. There was a Muskathlon team in Brisbane that organised training runs which I attended weekly and I also trained locally by myself.
When I first signed up for the Muskathlon, I couldn’t even run down my street. Before I left, I could run 19 kilometres! I felt pretty confident I could run the full 21 kilometres on the Muskathlon day.
I also had a target to raise $10,000 for Compassion or get 10 children sponsored. A friend helped me write out a fundraising plan which included having a bake sale and a high tea with auction items. I organised an online auction with big-ticket items donated by local businesses.
I also received cash donations from family and friends, plus saw kids sponsored through Compassion. A whole team of people stepped up around me and helped me raise the funds, and I’m proud to say I passed my target by over $2000!
4. WE’RE NOT MEANT TO DO LIFE ALONE
Relying on others is not something I’m used to, but I realised pretty quickly that this wasn’t a journey I could do alone. I didn’t have the knowledge, skills or capacity to undertake all of the fundraising myself and I also didn’t have the motivation to keep training by myself either! Having friends and support meant so much to me and kept me going on the tough days. Once I started running, I also realised this was a whole new network of friends in itself.
My favourite part of being in a team was the fun and laughs I had with the Australians on the trip. It was an emotional journey and we experienced things together which were both happy and sad.
We were there to support each other in all the amazing moments we experienced. Strong friendships were made and we share memories that will last forever!
5. CHILD SPONSORSHIP WORKS
I know child sponsorship works because I’ve seen it firsthand—the sponsored kids have access to schooling, uniforms, healthcare, extra meals, skills learning and more. Education is key to getting out of the poverty cycle. These things help give sponsored kids a real chance at flourishing in life. Unsponsored kids have a far greater chance of staying in poverty because they could remain uneducated, and even die of preventable diseases without access to the same levels of healthcare. Watching the unsponsored local kids on the sidelines looking in at the sponsored kids having fun was beyond heartbreaking. We saw desperation but there was also hope there. Sponsorship really will change lives.
On the trip I loved meeting my sponsored child Favour. She’s four years old, super cute, a bit cheeky and just a delight to get to know. She lives in the slums of Kampala. I bought her a few presents including a new dress which made her feel like a princess!
I miss her very much and it was such a privilege to meet her and to see how my small monthly funds are helping her so much.
6. FIND YOUR MOTIVATION
I loved running the half marathon, and what motivated me was the Ugandan kids we were running for—those sponsored and yet to be sponsored.
I also loved the people I was able to run with along the way. One was a 12 year old Ugandan girl called Paula who'd never run a half marathon before but was determined to finish, which she did! It showed me that age is not a barrier and it was so inspiring to watch her.
I also ran for part of the way with a former Compassion sponsored child called Ibrahim. He shared how Compassion helped him in his life and paid for his health and education, and he now wants to work with Compassion himself!
7. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
The people I saw in Uganda struggle to meet their basic needs—shelter, food, clean water and basic healthcare.
It was a wakeup call for me.
We have it so good over here in Australia. Sure, life isn’t perfect. There’s still tragedy, hurts, and plenty of bad things going on. But amongst it all, I now I need an attitude of gratefulness for where I live and the access to resources I have. As one of the richest countries in the world, we should consider taking a level of responsibility for those poorer than ourselves, in whatever form that takes for us. For me, it meant running further than I’ve ever run before. And I challenge you to join a Muskathlon. Because if I can do it, you can too!
Words by Susanna Rossetto
About the Compassion Muskathlon
Challenge yourself to run, hike or cycle whilst experiencing the life-changing work of Compassion during a week of unforgettable memories.
You can hike for 42km, cycle for 120km or to run 21km, 42km or 63km—choose your own adventure! The course location—Sumba, Indonesia—has been chosen for its beauty, accessibility and services.
Each athlete is set the challenge of raising $10,000 for Compassion or helping 10 children find sponsors. Learn more here.
2020 was the year of disasters, but you can restore hope to children who lost everything. Learn more