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By Clare Morin
If you ask competitors who the stars of this year’s Roving Race have been, they will probably say that it was the countless children along the course. Comments were streaming in from competitors throughout the week about these delightful youngsters, and how their energy and enjoyment inspired and motivated everyone.
So how fitting that the Child Welfare Scheme charity has benefitted directly from this year’s race. 14 competitors have been raising funds at the race for this charity in Nepal, and even the charity’s founder, Douglas Maclagan, took part.
“It feels good to be at home on this terrain,” explained the Scottish competitor when Amy Tye caught up with him for a chat early in the race. Maclagan has been a resident of Nepal for the past 17 years, so this is home turf. “I haven’t had any blisters or sprains,” he says with a smile.
Maclagan’s story of founding CWS started in 1995 when he was 28-years old and travelling around Nepal. “I met a young mother who was 18 years old with a baby and she just handed her sick baby to me hoping for help, but I couldn’t do anything,” he recounts. “Her look seemed to say, ‘Why didn’t you help me,’ maybe accusingly. I felt a sense of helplessness, guilt about not being able to help the baby. The baby died the next day.”
Instead of opting for guilt, Maclagan transformed the experience by using it as inspiration to set up a charity and help children throughout Nepal. He started with the Saimarang Day Care Health Centre, “as a safe haven for children in the daytime and primary healthcare for families at the village where women could get health and pre/post natal care.”
Since those early days, the charity now reaches 203,000 children, mothers and communities. There are 89 early childhood development centres, advanced health clinics, vocational training, and street children centres in cities.
Maclagan is looking to raise US$65,000 at this year’s race, and there is also a significant amount of funding coming from other competitors. The resources, he explains, will be used at Asha, a primary healthcare service with a clinic in Pokhara and the Jyoti (Blaze of Brightness) vocational training centre, for young people aged 15-21 from severely disadvantaged backgrounds.
Maclagan has come a long way since that run-in with the young mother. The charity’s Asha Health Care is now the second largest health care provider of paediatric services in the entire Western Region of Nepal, and the Scotsman won the 2009 ‘World of Children’ Health Award, an accolade recognized by UNICEF and hailed as the ‘Nobel Prize for Children.’
And as the 46-year old came running over the finish line in Pokhara today there was a tremendous reception from the children affiliated with the charity, who were cheering in the crowd. It was a moving scene, and the perfect ending to this event and the inspiring people of Nepal, who have touched the hearts of so many competitors.