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Louisiana’s ‘Walk for Humanity’ will save lives in Africa

2nd April 2013   ·   0 Comments

By J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Writer

On Saturday, April 13, hundreds will gather in Shreveport on Clyde Fant Parkway for the third annual Walk for Humanity, sponsored by the Institute for Global Outreach. Then on June 1 Baton Rouge will have its first annual version of the event. The Walk for Humanity raises monies to help destitute children and families in Ethiopia.

The Louisiana Weekly spoke with founder Velma Tarver to find out what the run has accomplished to date and what is planned for the future. “This is our third annual walk. We have moved to a bigger location because we outgrew our last location. The run/walk will start on Saturday April 13. The 5k run/walk will start at 8:00 am and the walk 1-mile health walk will start at 8:15.”

As for what this run will help accomplish, Tarver said, “It will allow us to continue taking care of the children and families we are now sponsoring. Since our last walk we are now sponsoring over 250 people in Ethiopia.”

Tarver actually travels to Ethiopia to view the work and says the impact of the assistance is visible, “You can see the difference in the children and their families. They are still very poor but they are not desperate. It’s amazing to see the same children again. They are confident and happy. They wanted to show me where they live – a lot of them were homeless and wanted to show us that they had a place to live. They weren’t going to school and now they are going to school. I could just tell they are better off, a whole lot better off. It’s all because of people here joining together, believing in the cause and saying ‘I’m going to do a little something to help out globally.’ And when all these people came together and decided to do a little, which was walk, we are now doing a lot. We say ‘give a little help a lot.’ We are now doing a lot.”

According to Tarver, small amounts of money from people here can make a significant impact in other countries. “If we join together, more and more people can make a difference in a child’s life. That $3 or $4 or $25 for the walk, most may not miss, but that’s something that can save somebody’s life. I know it because I’m there. I’ve been there, I see it…and check this out…they know us.”

On her last trip to Ethiopia Mrs. Tarver saw places were there were children lying on the floors almost like sardines. These places would take care of them while their mothers were out on the street begging for money. “I saw them and it just broke my heart. I asked, what’s going on with these kids? They told me they were trying to help them. They weren’t always able to feed them but they were saving their lives by taking them off the street where many would be beaten, raped or killed.”

When she asked what she could do to help these kids, the obvious answer that came back was money. “I got enough money to wire to them for those children. They are too young to go to school and their mothers are too poor to afford the $4 a month that it takes to put them in early childhood development. They don’t have it, believe it or not. I came back and wired the funding to start taking care of some of these kids. When they sent me back my receipt they sent a picture of my kids eating. Talk about an emotional moment! I see them in these new chairs and new tables. I’ve never been so happy to see children eating rice in my life. To see these babies sitting down eating rice with a little bit of vegetables mixed in, their little hands, picking it up eating. I screamed, ‘They’re eating!’ Thank you God! I was screaming and crying.”

The Weekly wanted to know how the money actually gets to where it can really do the most good. “There are so many people in desperate need of help, you have to have structured programs. There are three non-profits that I partner with. I did the research and found five that I knew were credible, that were doing good work and that were sincere in their efforts. We met with them and narrowed it down to three, one of which deals with the AIDS epidemic there. We get the children from them.”

But Tarver is fanatic about ensuring that the funds are really making a difference. “They have waiting lists of thousands of children. I go there and meet the children and the families. One program said, ‘If you will sponsor them, we’ll make sure that they get it.’ That’s how I get their receipts, their report cards, their attendance reports and their updates that make up the profile to show this is the child we started with and this is where they are now. This is what we are doing for them. I go to Ethiopia with my own translator who lives there. We go into the huts and the homes of the people to talk to them. They don’t know who I’m going to ask to see. I trust them but I want to make sure.”

Helping 250 families start on a journey out of desperation and poverty is not enough for Tarver and her supporters, they are ready to dig in deeper. “We want to start our own non-profit in Ethiopia so that we can reach more people. We are going to set up an office there. It’s already in the works. We met with ambassador who said they were grateful that we chose Ethiopia.”

They are also upping their game by expanding the walk to other cities, the Baton Rouge event is evidence of that.

Tarver speaks about her motivation expanding her efforts, “They do without if we don’t do what we do. And they are so grateful!!! I had so many people saying God bless you, God bless you! God bless you! God is moving this thing; I believe that’s why we are doing so well.”

This article originally published in the April 1, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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