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Triumphant Mum-of-4 completes a global endurance challenge in Rwanda with Compassion UK and 4th Musketeer

Debbie Wattis from Coventry has just returned from a once–in-a-lifetime adventure in Rwanda where she completed a half-marathon as part of a ‘Muskathlon’ challenge with 22 other race-goers from across the UK.

“My time in Rwanda has been amazing and totally exceeded my expectations. In the lead up to my trip, I was feeling apprehensive, I knew it would be my biggest challenge yet but it turned out to be one the best and most rewarding things I have ever done,” shares 46-year-old Debbie.

A “Muskathlon” is an overseas adventure challenge hosted by 4th Musketeer and Compassion UK. The event works in partnership with local churches in developing countries to empower vulnerable children living in poverty. Participants chose from a half, full or ultra-marathon, 120km cycle or 60km walk through the communities for which they are fundraising.

As part of the trip, Debbie and other race-goers had the opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture and engage with children from a Compassion project.
“At first, I thought I was just going to Rwanda to run a half marathon, but it quickly became so much more than just that and I was impacted in ways I never imagined. I got to see first-hand the difference Compassion makes to children and families living in poverty. I also got the opportunity to meet my sponsored child, 5-year-old Izabayo, which was a truly special moment that I will never forget,” adds Debbie.

Debbie’s personal journey towards her half marathon unknowingly began last year. “I started a weight loss journey at the start of 2016. I was determined to improve my fitness levels, confidence and overall health. I lost 75lbs and was proud of my achievement, but I still had a way to go before reaching my goal to lose 120lbs. I wanted a new challenge and a new focus to keep me going, and then I heard about the Muskathlon. Taking on a challenge for a cause that I am passionate about gave me a renewed focus.

“After months of preparation and training, I was eager for race day to arrive. The last few miles were the hardest part. We were all getting tired, and I could feel myself starting to slow down. All I knew was that I needed to keep moving, I was determined to reach that finish line. The thing that kept me going were the kids running beside us, spurring us on with cheering and reaching out to hold our hands as we run.”

Debbie has now raised £4,400 for Compassion and has seen 2 children sponsored by friends and family. The funds raised by the athletes are going towards a Child Survival Project in Rwanda, which provides vulnerable mums with mentoring, child birth assistance and pre- and post-natal check-ups and immunisations.

“Crossing that finish line was the most amazing feeling! It had been the result of a lot of hard work and pain, but the feeling of achievement made it all worth it. I have learnt so much through the experience, to reach beyond my comfort zone, stretch myself and to push through even when things get tough.”

Not only has Debbie taken up the mantle of this international challenge, but she also keeps a journal of her experiences and reflections on her blog ‘My Life in Pictures’. “I’m much more of a visual person, so I decided to capture how I was feeling through illustrations. My drawings tell the story of my personal experiences of dieting, exercise and my Rwanda trip in visual form.”

Now back in the UK Debbie reflects, “I have learnt that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. That’s all that we were on that trip – just ordinary people, but all wanting to make a difference for children living in poverty. We can’t always help everyone, but through Compassion we can make a real difference for one child at a time.”

For more information and photographs contact Jennie Taylor, Jenniet@compassionuk.org 

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