PCI joins 2019 Serengeti Safari Marathon to promote school meals program

Some people run for medals. Others run for sport. On Nov. 16, staff from PCI Tanzania ran the Serengeti Safari Marathon to raise awareness about taking hunger out of the classroom and feeding children’s dreams instead.

A total of 44 staff members participated in the event, which starts inside Tanzania’s iconic Serengeti National Park and offers options of a full or half marathon, 10k race or fun run for kids. They were joined by 200 local students and 20 teachers whom PCI sponsored to attend.

“I never dreamed that one day I [would] be participating in such a big event like this,” said Nyakongo Chacha, a fourth-grade student from Kambubu Primary School in Bunda district. “As a girl, I thought these type of events [were] never for me, but by participating in this one, now I know anything is possible.”

Nyakongo is one of more than 170,000 students who receives a healthy school meal each day through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition (FFE) program. FFE is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented by PCI in 231 primary schools across the Bunda, Butiama and Musoma districts of Mara Region, Tanzania.

2019 Serengeti Safari Marathon participants

A total of 44 PCI Tanzania staff members, 200 students and 20 teachers who benefit from PCI’s school meals program participated in the Serengeti Safari Marathon on Nov. 16, 2019.

In addition to school meals, PCI also supports schools with planting school gardens, improving water and sanitation facilities, training teachers in quality instruction techniques and establishing libraries and reading corners. The overall aim is to partner with schools, local communities and the Government of Tanzania to create healthier learning environments for students to reach their full potential.

“PCI, you are continuing to set high bars in my region in terms of your interventions,” said Mara Regional Commissioner Adam Malima. “In a few years, I am sure I will have national and international champions in sports from this region, and all thanks to you for engaging children in such events.”

To showcase PCI Tanzania’s program activities at the Serengeti marathon, which attracts nearly 1,000 runners from around the world each year, PCI set up informational booths on-site where more than 50 staff members were available to answer questions, hand out water and cheer on participants. PCI’s runners and volunteers also wore bright blue T-shirts decorated with PCI’s logo and the slogan “Kimbia Kulisha Watoto Shuleni,” which means “Run for school feeding” in Swahili.

“This event proves that this is a huge opportunity for kids to learn and be inspired. Adults, as well, have learned a lot through these kids,” said Adam Malundo, senior support officer for monitoring, learning and evaluation at PCI Tanzania. He was one of the 44 staff members who ran in the marathon after three months of training with PCI’s informal running club. The group started meeting after work and on weekends as a team building activity.

Madam Janeth Mayanja, Bunda district executive director, was one of several local government officials who commented on PCI’s presence at the marathon and long-running history with Tanzania.

“We are so grateful to PCI for making this event possible to our students,” Mayanja said. “You have been touching the lives of our people through your program. Now, you are touching the lives of our children through participating with them in this event. It has created an everlasting memory for these children.”

Victor Mapile and Godfrey Matumu contributed to this story.