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How Running For Compassion Changed Me

How completing a Compassion Challenge could change lives forever – including yours.

Running marathon overseas

When you’ve completed a Compassion Challenge, you’ll have a completely new definition of ‘impossible’. Just ask these 5 supporters who ran marathons in Rwanda last year. They say their lives will never be the same again.

Gemma’s story: ‘Life is short and you can make a difference’

What made me really want to do a Compassion Challenge was to push myself up out of my comfort zone and to do something a bit different for a charity that I think is doing amazing work. I’m doing a half marathon and I normally don't run that far. So, it's been fun to try and go a little bit further.

The trip has definitely changed my perspective completely. I already knew that Compassion did incredible work. But seeing the children and their homes and how their families have been impacted is amazing.

These children are living in one room or sharing a mattress with their entire family of five. I think that was really moving for me, to know that the money’s going to these children who really need it.

Gemma running marathon overseas

A real highlight for me was one evening we saw some of the graduates who finished the programme. A few of them came and spoke about what it's meant in their lives and it was really emotional and amazing. Their stories were super encouraging and inspiring.

I’d say that there are all types of people who come on this trip. We are not all athletes in any way and everybody has a different pace that they're going to take. You can absolutely do it. Even if you come and you just walk a half marathon, you can do it. Life is short and you can make a difference by doing something like this.

Want to make a difference like Gemma? Sign up for a Compassion Challenge today.

Danny’s story: ‘I'll genuinely treasure this trip’

I’ve always assumed that life is going to give you challenges that you can’t handle.
But this is different. It’s a challenge I’ve put on myself that I’ve achieved.

When I signed up for the challenge, I was kind of all over the place. I was suffering with depression and I needed to do something quite big just to see if I could achieve something.

I thought 5k was going to be impossible and now I’ve flown to the other side of the world to run a marathon. That's something I can take for the rest of my life and apply it to anything in my life. So, who knows what could be next for me?

It’s been about opening my eyes to what the real world is like, not stuck in my little bubble. The fact is, I stuck to something and I did it. It was so big and massive and out of the range of possibility that it’s made everything else seem doable.

Mate, you’re not a runner.

Half way through the training, I hadn’t raised enough sponsorship. I had a lot of people saying, mate, you’re not a runner. You can’t do this. So, I said to my church leader, ‘I’m out, I can’t do this’. She said to me, ‘God’s put you on a path and it’s not meant to be easy. But if you give up now, you’re not ever going to get there. You’ve got to trust this is God’s plan.’

Then a week later I did an event and I got 14 kids sponsored, all my trip costs covered and I was set ready to go. The stress instantly disappeared.

Danny running marathon Rwanda

Now I’m so proud to have done it. I’ll genuinely treasure this trip for the rest of my life. The moment I formed a friendship with my sponsored child, I think that’s already one of the most special moments of my life. You go from hopeless to hopeful in seconds.

Challenges Danny meeting sponsored child

Paul’s story: 'we came to bless, but we were blessed in return’

I completed my first marathon as part of this challenge and what a place to do it in the beautiful hills of Rwanda. I'm really pleased with how it all went. The thing that stands out to me now is that it became less about a marathon and more about seeing what Compassion does and how it impacts them. Even the marathon itself became more about the team that we've grown to love this week.

Paul Compassion Challenges Runner

We went into a project in Kigali. I saw poverty, real poverty for the first time. But I also saw hope and joy as a result of what Compassion is doing in these folks' lives. And that was fantastic to see the joy that came back. We came to bless, but we were blessed in return.

I’m going back home with a lot more questions than answers on how we create sustainable development in a place like Rwanda. I know my life has changed forever.

I’d say to you that if you’re thinking about a Compassion Challenge, can I encourage you? You might not feel like you can do it, but I tell you, you can.

Compassion Challenges team

Jenna’s story: ‘I’m stronger than I think I am’

Crossing the finish line was just pure relief for me. I had a complete diva moment about two kilometres before the finish line and I was ready to just sit down and not finish it.

But I was really blessed on the challenge actually because I had one of the Rwandan Compassion team join me. And so, we were together the whole time. She was amazing. Throughout the challenge, she was really encouraging. She kept saying, you are strong, you are strong, you are strong. Finally getting across that line was amazing.

I think this week I've probably learned that I may be a little bit stronger than I had thought originally. And also that the people that I love, know that I'm a lot stronger than I think I am.

Jenna Compassion Challenges runner

I really pray that these last seven days will make a lasting difference in my life. I think maybe I'll stop a little longer. Take a little more time with those that I love and maybe those that I don't. And maybe just smile a little more, share a little bit more joy.

To someone who may be in my shoes or undecided about whether they want to sign up for a challenge next year, I would just say do it. I promise you that these seven days blow everything out of the water. I go home encouraged, I go home a new person, I go home excited about the future and what I can do. So, I would say go for it.

Are you ready to go for it? If Jenna has inspired you, sign up here.

Steph’s story: ‘It’s a privilege to meet my sponsored child’

What’s impacted me most has been visiting my sponsored children. It was lovely to see the home of Caddo, the girl I sponsor, to meet her mum, to meet her brothers and her little sister who followed her around like a shadow. It was great to see that they still have joy in the Lord despite the challenging conditions they're in. 

Challenges meeting sponsored child

What I’ve learned from my child is just how loving the whole family is. To be lacking in so much materially compared to us, but to have so much love in the family, so much support of each other. It’s just great to see.

I think what I’m going to take home is a desire to encourage all the sponsors I know to write more to their children. I know a lot of people who sponsor already, but I really want to encourage them to write to their children to just have that connection because I’ve seen again, just how much it means to the children.

It’s such a privilege to be able to sponsor children with Compassion and to get to meet them is just an added privilege. It’s so wonderful to see their faces, to see their smile. It’s very humbling that they appreciate us so much and what we do for them, but it’s really a privilege for us to do it for them.


Inspired to find your start line and take on a Compassion Challenge? It could be the start of something new. If you’d like to meet your sponsored child and raise support for others, take the first step and sign up today.

Find your start line


Photo credit: Jean Bizimana & Mussa Uwitonze

WORDS : Becca Stanley

PHOTOS : Compassion UK



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