On Sunday 22 February I am running the Brighton Half Marathon, raising funds for the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI). I’m combining my two passions, two journeys in one; fitness with effective altruism, a health journey with a...spiritual one?
It’s only thirteen miles, but in my book that’s a pretty long way! It will be the furthest I’ve ever run. I’m quite fit and healthy now but I didn’t used to be, so I’m still playing catch up.
Back in 2012 I couldn't run for two minutes without stopping so this run is quite a symbolic challenge for me. I don’t plan on stopping after this one either, all being well. I want to make fitness part of a lifelong journey.
Fundraising for the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) is part of a another journey for me, one I’ve more recently started. One I also hope will be lifelong. I’m not necessarily a spiritual person, but I suppose you could say this one is about my spiritual health.
If you had told me three years ago that I would enjoy running I would have laughed my head off! But it’s an established part of my routine now - I go almost every other day and I love it. I hope that in three years' time donating to effective charities will be as natural and enjoyable to me. Fitness has been about doing something for myself, getting more out of my life, challenging and improving myself. Giving is also about challenging and improving myself but more than that it’s about helping others reach their potential. It’s a different sort of challenge but even more satisfying and meaningful. It is true what they say about giving to charity, it doesn’t just make others happy but you as well. I enjoy running, but it is a different kind of enjoyment when you keep it all to yourself. Giving feels bigger, more satisfying somehow and I wonder if that is because I’m sharing my joy with others.
There are other parallels between these two endeavours. For example, I’ve got my initial training programme Try Giving instead of the Couch to 5k to ease me in and help me make giving a part of my life.
I’m in that early phase of a journey at the moment; eager to learn everything I can, this time not about healthy eating but about the most effective charities. What are others doing? What community is out there? What is most effective?
My advice to those starting such a journey would be to start small. You can’t change everything overnight. Find something that you enjoy and that makes sense to you and build from there.
I’ve chosen the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative to support. They appear in the top charities for Giving What We Can, The Life You Can Save, Give Well, and Charity Science . They’ve even been rated a ‘Best Buy’ by the World Health Organisation.
This made them a sensible place to start for for a beginner.
They treat Neglected Tropical Diseases, a range of common infections that are easily treated but not well known and so underfunded. Treating them can be done at a low cost and often within the community, teaching simple techniques and empowering local communities to help themselves.
The diseases may be neglected by the effects can be devastating. These diseases can cause anything from vomiting blood to paralysis to blindness. They can also contribute to malnutrition and in children can lead to arrested development and learning difficulties.
I am still learning about effective charities and exploring different ways to make more of an impact with my donations but this feels like the right place to start for me. I find the work they do really impressive.
One of the biggest factors in my success at improving both my health and fitness and my giving has been the support of others. I’ve have a lot of support from communities like Giving What We Can and Effective Altruists as I've started this journey. I’ve had encouragement from the volunteers at the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative as I’ve begun donating and they’ve helped me see some of the difference I am making. I’ve set up a sponsorship page and many friends have asked about the charity I’m raising money for, and supported my efforts.
All of that support means a lot whenever you’re starting something new. Thank you to everyone who's supporting me.
When I was on my health journey the support of my friends meant everything to me. Now that I am on my effective altruism journey your support will mean everything to me and the people we help. Please support us if you can and wish me luck on Sunday 22 February when I hope to take two important journeys that little bit further.
Image from Brighton Half-Marathon.