It’s not everyday you start a campaign and get the likes of David Beckham and Bear Grylls to back you. But that’s exactly what Melbourne-based ultra-marathon runner Sam Gash has done.
The former Survivor contestant and professional endurance athlete is leading a global relief virtual run in June to raise life-saving funds for the people of India devastated by COVID-19. She’s also hoping to raise funds for children’s education.
The reason Gash wants to do this is for the children of India whom she met while she ran across the country back in 2016. Now, as the second wave of COVID-19 rips through, India’s fragile health system is buckling under the pressure of escalating cases leaving vulnerable communities at risk.
The COVID-19 death toll has now reached more than 329,000, yet experts fear the official number may be an underestimate.
“The scale of the tragedy in India is heartbreaking, but I feel confident the generosity of Australians can make a difference,” Gash said in a statement.
“I think every one of us has some connection to India and is devastated by the ever-increasing scale of loss. It is heart-wrenching to see the endless suffering of individuals and vulnerable communities that are now at even greater risk.”
“When Australia was devastated by bushfires in 2020, the global community came to our aid. Now it’s time for us to pay it forward.”
The social entrepreneur is not new to such international endeavours. In 2020, she organised 19,000 runners from 94 countries raising a total of $1.1 million for bushfire relief efforts.
In 2016 she completed Run India, scaling 3200km from the west to east of India to raise funds for a range of World Vision education initiatives.
Throughout her three-month journey, Gash dropped in on some of the country’s most poverty-stricken regions, forging friendships with the families and children she met.
Later that year, Gash became an Australia India Youth Dialogue representative, bringing together young Australian and Indian leaders in a forum to discuss various issues significant to the Australia-India relationship.
This time around, Gash plans to give away her funds to World Vision’s COVID-19 India crisis appeal, which is responding to lifesaving needs for equipment and supplies including beds, oxygen concentrators, food vouchers and tents for temporary COVID-19 care centres.
Her Relief Run will be held over the Queen’s birthday long weekend of June 11,12 and 13 and will be a virtual run allowing participants across the world to run 5km, 10km or half a marathon at a location and time of their choice. Schools, corporates and communities are also encouraged to create an event and support the cause.
World Vision has been working in some of India’s worst-hit areas, significantly boosting its response and supporting more than 23,000 children in India and their communities through sponsorship programs.
Daniel Wordsworth, World Vision Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, is encouraging people to sign up for this year’s Relief Run.
“India and its people hold a special place in the hearts of Australians, and Samantha’s initiative gives us all the opportunity to stand in solidarity with them,” he said in a statement.
“We are very grateful for Samantha’s support, and her willingness to use her platform again and again to help others. Register for this run so we can help the people of India work towards an end to this grave humanitarian crisis.”
Health and wellbeing insurer AIA Australia is partnering with Relief Run to help stage the fundraiser in cities and towns across Australia.
Damien Mu, AIA Australia and New Zealand’s Chief Executive and Managing Director, saw Gash run last year to raise funds for the bushfire and is eager to be involved in her efforts this time around.
“When Samantha brought the idea of the Relief Run to us, there was no question in my mind that AIA should be involved – this was simply about doing the right thing,” he said.
“We have colleagues, friends and family directly impacted by the crisis in India, and I believe it is our responsibility to make a difference however we can.”
Other supporters involved in Gash’s latest campaign include Bec Judd, Sylvia Jeffreys, Laura Henshaw, Steve Hooker, Anabelle Smith, Alisa Camplin and Marika Day.
If you are a corporate, school or community group and would like to set up a team, contact [email protected].