On February 19th, 33 British amateur runners, a filming team and the charity director Danielle Smith travel to a refugee camp in Tindouf, in SW Algeria. They will participate in long distance runs in the Sahara and be joined by around 500 expected runners from other parts of the world. The Saharamarathon is in its 10th year and is a solidarity race for the Saharawi refugees. With the help of the British participants, the charity aims to raise £20,000 for the Saharawi Artist Fund. The film crew are telling the life of triple gold medalist Salah Ameidan, a Saharawi runner who won the 10km Wimbledon race in October 2009.
The UK charity Sandblast works to give the displaced Saharawi refugees a voice through the arts. It is the second year the charity acts as official UK facilitator for participation in the Saharamarathon. The 33 runners will help raise thousands for the Saharawi Artist Fund, to finance regular arts workshops in the camps and provide vital training and resources for cultural and economic empowerment. In February 2009, 15 British runners helped to raise over £10,000. This year the funds will go towards setting up a professional mobile recording studio and train Saharawis to run it in the camps.
On February 22nd, the hundreds of participants traveling from all over the world to Tindouf will run either full 42-km marathons or join shorter races of 5km, 10km, and a half marathon. The route connects three of the four refugee camps, Smara, Ausserd and El-Aaiun. Each camp takes its name from a main city in the Saharawi homeland of Western Sahara. After the races everyone will travel to Dakhla, the most remote camp, to witness a children’s race, which is partially sponsored by AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Runs). During the week stay in the camps, participants will live with individual refugee families. The camp-based Saharawi government-in-exile and international volunteers have organized and hosted the event since 2001 to help create awareness, promote sports for the Saharawi youth and raise money for projects to improve the lives of the long-term refugees.
Prior to the trip, Sandblast will host a reunion in London on February 12th with the runners and two leading women from the camp- based National Union of Saharawi Women, the Secretary General Fatma Mehdi and the head of International Relations Suelma Beiruk. For press meetings, please contact the charity.
Sandblast is an arts and human rights charity that aims to empower the displaced Saharawi refugees through the arts. Close to 200,000 Saharawis have been living as refugees since the 1975 Moroccan invasion of their country, Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony in NW Africa. Despite the extreme hardships of their exile, the Saharawi refugee community has managed to build a vibrant, democratically run nation-in-exile, where women play a prominent role in all sectors of life, defying many Western preconceptions about Arab-Muslim societies. The Saharawis seek their independence in Western Sahara and have been waiting for the UN to implement the long promised referendum for their self-determination, originally scheduled for early 1992.
To find out more please visit the Sandblast website: www.sandblast-arts.org.