Monday, January 17, 2011

Pinoys to join Dubai marathon to help distressed compatriots

A group of Filipino runners in Dubai is joining a marathon event in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to raise funds for their distressed compatriots there.

Filipino Runners-UAE said on its website that it is participating in the annual Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon on Jan. 21 not only to keep healthy or overcome homesickness, but also to assist unfortunate Filipino workers there. 

Dubbed Takbo Para kay Kabayan (Run for my Countrymen), 39 members of the group vowed to run a total of 800 kilometers in the marathon. 

The group said it is hoping to raise at least Dh40,000 (about P480,000) by soliciting pledges of Dh50 (about P600) from individuals and groups for every kilometer that they run. 

The activity’s proceeds will go to Filipinos at the Rashid Hospital who need medical and financial assistance; education and training workshops to inform overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) their basic rights; and repatriation of distressed OFWs at the POLO-OWWA Center in Abu Hail in Dubai. 

“Finishing the Dubai Marathon, which includes the grueling 42km event as well as the 10km race, is a major feat in itself, but participating in that event to help others is glorious," said Euca Bolingot, the group’s coach and team captain.

Bolingot, 28 years old and an IT professional in Dubai, said many OFWs, particularly domestic helpers and unskilled workers, end up as victims of maltreatment, harassment and unfair labor practices, while some of them have piled up hospital bills. 

Takbo para kay Kabayan, Bolingot said, is the group’s way of extending aid to their distressed compatriots and raising awareness on the conditions that many OFWs endure.

Filipino Runners partnered with the UAE chapter of migrants’ rights group Migrante International in November last year to help realize the fundraising project.

Yuri Cipriano, chairperson of Migrante-UAE, said Takbo para kay Kabayan is “a clarion call to all Filipino expats to hold similar activities that will uplift the lives of theirkababayans (countrymen) in the Middle East."

Cipriano, who will participate in the 10km run, said Takbo para kay Kabayan is a fine example of the Filipino practice of bayanihan or collective action. 

“More than ever, we are more determined to reach the finish line. Each stride, each bead of sweat, each glory and pain is dedicated to improve the lives of our fellow migrant workers," Balingot said. 

The group started with just three runners, but according to Bolingot, the group’s membership has now grown to almost 50 in just a few months. The group was initially called Zabeel Night Striders until the members decided to adopt the name Filipino Runners. 

The group has set up a website for those who would like to give donations. - JA/KBK, GMANews.TV

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