Once a month there’s an appeal to Woodhouse Moor parkrunners in Leeds to donate their old, but still useful, trainers for prisoners in Harare, Zimbabwe. The donations are picked up by parkrunners from Wrangthorn Church, which is just across the road from the course; we consider ourselves neighbours.
Wrangthorn, which has its own running club, has been offering hospitality to parkrunners once a month for a number of years, with free coffee and cake in the warmth and shelter of the church. They have hosted our birthday celebrations and let us use their space to hold first aid training sessions offered by medical students from the nearby University of Leeds. It was also a welcome refuge when we returned from lockdown and our runners didn’t want to crowd into the small café space; a large church with its high ceilings and lots of room was a different matter, however.
Through connections with Zimbabwean pastor Shepherd Josamu, leaders at the church were told how prisoners in Harare, both male and female, went barefoot. Knowing what a kind and generous lot our parkrunners are, they decided to ask if they would donate their old trainers, which they did. The collections are kept to the first Saturday of the month to coincide with the hospitality over at the church. They are a hit with the parkrunners, who are glad their well-loved trainers are helping others, and the prisoners, who are grateful that others think of them. The other Christmas, Shepherd asked if we would be willing to send, through the church, money to pay for a Christmas meal for the prisoners as there is no special meal for them. Ever. Of course there was a generous response!
Woodhouse Moor, which includes Hyde Park, is the city’s most popular urban park, designed by the Victorians as the ‘green lungs of Leeds’ offering open space to people living in the mainly garden-free houses nearby. It is a thriving community, which is reflected in the parkrunners who turn up each Saturday. We very much consider ourselves to be part of that community, so are thrilled to support Wrangthorn’s outreach, as well as work by other local community groups.
There are now parkruns in 22 countries throughout the world, free, weekly, timed 5k events organised by volunteers. Woodhouse Moor parkrun is one of the oldest, starting in 2007, and the first outside London after the inaugural at Bushy Park, Teddington, in 2004. The founder of parkrun, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, has said that parkrun “brings people together in a way too often overlooked by modern society, in a way that empowers the most wonderful aspects of the human spirit. It offers everyone the opportunity to be involved in something positive that is constructive and joyful, to be part of their community, and to contribute to the health and happiness of their fellow humans.”
Anne Akers is event director at Woodhouse Moor.
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