Breaking World Records and Saving Children From Slavery – Just Another Weekend for Mercy Project
This past weekend, I attended the event of a lifetime: a 24 hour long world record-breaking relay that raised money to save enslaved children in various African countries. Mercy Project, a nonprofit organization I am proud to say my brother started, is working from the ground up to save these children with unique and sustainable methods. Mercy Project is tackling the source of the problem – teaching the slave owners, or fisherman in this situation, how to continue to fish without using children as slaves. So far Mercy Project has been very successful, and has recused 47 children.
“Mercy Project began in August of 2009 when I traveled to Ghana, Africa for the first time. On that trip, I met Tomas, the little boy you see in this picture. Tomas is a child slave; one of an estimated 7,000 enslaved children who work in the fishing industry of Ghana today. Meeting Tomas both broke and stole my heart, and we have been working ever since that fateful day to bring justice and mercy to the enslaved children working on Lake Volta.
We want to be creative and innovative in our economic development projects. We don’t just want to rescue a few kids, we want to remove the structures that cause these children to work like this in the first place. Our ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of a job.
Our story is a story of hope, faith, and trust. We believe that good things happen when people give of themselves. We believe that great things happen when people join with others in giving of themselves. Some incredible things are happening, and we are thankful every day for the chance to be a part of it. We hope you will join us on the journey to make the world a better place.”
– Chris Field, Mercy Project Executive Director
Breaking world records is nothing new for Mercy Project – each year they get a group of volunteers together and break a world record, raising money and awareness for the cause in the process. This year the event was going to be a continuous relay, with the record being the total number of people able to complete 1 mile, one after another, in a 24 hour period. The number to beat was 150 runners, so this was going to be no easy task!
I drove into town about an hour after the event had officially started, around 8pm on Friday night. The runners were going strong, each doing 4 laps around the 400 meter track. Mercy Project Executive Director Chris Field MC’d the event, cheering the runners on by calling out their times and playing ‘pump up’ music that kept them going. There were also quite a few supporters that cheered the runners on, some of them staying the full 24 hours!
Some of the runners dressed up to make things more interesting, and some made bets with their friends or spouses as to who would finish their mile the fastest! To the right you can see one of my favorite outfits – a friend of ours wearing a full cheerleading getup! Others wore tutus, ninja turtle outfits, or just an incredibly small pair of shorts – yikes. You could definitely tell the runners were there to have fun, and everyone wore smiles throughout the event. Many people’s friends and family came during their time slot to cheer them on, and towards the end of the 24 hours the stands were packed with spectators!
A few times throughout the relay Chris Field, Mercy Project’s founder, ran with the current runner and encouraged them as they finished their mile. As you can see on the left below, this was truly powerful to watch! I have run with Chris before, and let me tell you – he will stop at nothing to keep you from giving up or slowing down. Surprisingly many runners actually sped up when Chris ran with them, and many sped up as their friends and families cheered them on!
As the clock came close to the 24 hour mark, the fastest runners took to the track. The goal was to squeeze as many fast miles into the last 30 minutes as possible – making the record as hard as possible to beat in the future. As one of the last runners prepared, the look on his face was fierce – he was ready. He ended up running a 4:25 mile, which if you’ve ever been a runner, you realize is pure insanity.
The final runners ran, and with less than 2 minutes to spare, the last runner crossed the finish line – the clock read 23 hours 58 minutes and 35 seconds. 180 total runners was the official record, all within 24 hours. This comes out to an average mile pace of about 8 minutes, which is pretty fast if you consider the overall sample size!
After the end of the race, a local burger place provided burgers for the runners, volunteers, and those who cheered them on. Everyone enjoyed a burger as they relaxed and realized what they had accomplished: a new world record, and more importantly a brighter future for children who might not have had one before. What a truly powerful event, made possible only by the determination and hard work of everyone involved!
Check out more photos from the event below:
Here are most of the 180 runners that helped set the record!
Last, but definitely not least, this is Famous – He was a trafficked child without a family to return to once he was rescued, so Mercy Project founder Chris Field and his wife Stacey decided to adopt him.
If reading this has gotten you fired up and you would like to help, please share Mercy Project with your friends, and even consider getting involved!