72% of RUN’s participants, refugees and asylum seekers, report being calm, peaceful and happy after a hiking or fitness session. 60% report better personal health. Co-founded by passionate “ultra-runner”, lawyer and sports enthusiast Virginie Goethals, together with Brenda Sawyer, RUN's mission is to rehabilitate refugees and asylum seekers, particularly women who are survivors of sexual violence, through sport and education, since refugees and asylum seekers live under the poverty line and do not have the right to work in Hong Kong.
Calling it the “RUN effect,” through additional support (including coaching and working with psychologists), RUN helps its participants rebuild their mental and physical strength, creates a safe environment where they can recover from past traumas, build a community, and improve their skills for a more hopeful future: “Refugees come for sport, leave with empowerment.”
In parallel, to work towards financial sustainability and as part of its leadership program, RUN organizes an annual trail race. This event is open to the general public, companies and schools, charging participation and sign-up fees in order to generate revenue to finance its work with survivors. These races also provide an important opportunity to raise awareness about violence against women.
“I will seldom take no for an answer and will always try to circumvent it, whether it be when a refugee victim of violence thinks she cannot climb a mountain or when someone does not want to be involved with refugees. The best reward for my stubbornness are the ladies' smiles at the top or a person's recognition that we are all equal.”
“My main motivation was to find a way to give the most vulnerable women a way to regain their dignity through participation in a project that provides them with a professional experience, while at the same time raising awareness about their struggles.” Virginie Goethals, co-founder of Run