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By Br. Carlo Bacalla, SDB

Vientiane, Laos PDR, 31 December 2018 -- Before the year 2018 ends and the new year 2019 arrives, I want to share with you a few thoughts on the biggest event that happened to me in the year 2018 – The South to North Charity Run in Laos.

The S2N event has ended but the journey continues. It has been 65 days since it was successfully completed. I want to personally put a closure to this episode as I continue to reminisce over every single memory of that long journey of 1,569 km on foot from Attapeu to Phongsaly, in Laos PDR. Just like in the movies, the event had its protagonists and antagonists. Just like in the movies, that journey had its climax and anti-climax, its ups and downs. And just like in the movies where the protagonists always win, the S2N Charity Run was a success!

When there is a good intention and a clear goal, any endeavor whether big or small will most likely succeed. That was my personal conviction right from the start. It was for Charity and to help Lao Children. Selling the idea was not easy. When I thought that everything was OK and that I had everyone behind me, I realized it was not so. I started counting heads and checked who were in and who were out. I struggled and looked around for names I could count on. Yes, they were there and they came just at the right moment!

I believe in the power of prayer so I prayed hard and prayed so hard for enlightenment and that If it was God’s will, He should make the event happen. I asked for a sign and it came. So I pushed hard and mustered all the courage to convince other friends to embrace the cause. And so Team S2N came about!

I have never seen a team like this one that worked so hard in a very short span of time. After doing a series of instant meetings and quick huddles, we got the names of runners and support crew who committed to join Team S2N. Initially we had 4 main runners but ended up with seven, twelve support runners made up of 7 male and 5 female runners, and six support crew. Other key players unexpectedly joined in and added a boost to the team. The main challenge was to keep the team’s spirit sustained at the initial stage. Honestly, the team’s composition was so fragile. But I sensed there was this sincerity in everyone that kept us motivated.

Getting enough big sponsors was a big challenge but thanks to the skills of our marketing team composed of Vanpheng, Thouni, and Gait, they convinced our sponsor companies to support the S2N Charity Run. We had a superb communications team composed of La Silaphet, Bee Somphet, Oubonluck Sananikhom, Silver Sokoken, Galina Bannavong, and Malina Douangphachan, who kept information flowing from the runners on the ground, to the sponsors and donors, to the supporters and followers of S2N.

We had the logistics and support team composed of Lina (who had the dual role of race coordinator and one-woman videographer/reporter), Yun (rescue medic and driver), Martin, Ryan, Seng (our van driver), Uncle Seng and Sassi (our pick-up drivers and logistics aides), Noy (our motorcycle driver) who kept the runners hydrated. All these support crew helped keep the runners alive, well-fed, and healthy. Then we had the Finance team composed of Vanpheng, Thouni, Gai, and Souliphone Southammavong who kept everyone updated on the financial report of the donations and names of donors. Our S2N prime movers, Vanpheng, Thouni, Gai, La Silaphet, and Daniel who made sure that everything and everyone was up and moving well.

Big thanks to our sponsors EFG, Lao FORD city, Inthira Group and Green Discovery, Tiger Head, Phubia mining, and Breast feeding and gifted-child support for believing in us and for your financial support. Special thanks to Mr. Dilip of Lao FORD who helped us with 3 support vehicles and Mr Inthy Deuansavanh who powered this Charity Run not only financially but by running for the entire duration with the S2N team. I want to mention here Ms Pack, the wife of Mr Inthy for her untiring support and for joining us in this journey partly as driver and photographer.

The route was four times longer than what I have been used to for four years, running from Vientiane (the capital) to Luang Prabang and 75% was unfamiliar terrain. As expected, the northern provinces are more mountainous and so the climbs were more steep. Honestly, since it was a relay run done by the team, there was less fatigue since more runners shared the distance. It was impressive how every runner was ready to take up the challenge of running at anytime of the day and with any terrain. Each one had his or her own personal target distance to cover on top of the regular distance assigned for each one to cover everyday.

A huge hug and a big thanks to my fellow runners: Daniel, Inthy, Ban Der, Ryan, Martin, Parker, Silver, Neil, Phoukhao, Gerhard, Kee, Bee, Dilip, Krystal, Galina, Vanpheng, Khankeo, and Jou bi. I can’t fail to thank Mr Phouvong Ratanavong who ran with us for 5 days and took exceptional care of the runners on those days. Thanks to our special videographer Xai, our PR support Mr Xai the big biker, and Lenin, who helped contacting their friends to organize our welcome and send-off in several provinces. Thanks to my superiors for giving me the permission to be absent from my regular duties and to my staff and students for behaving well during my absence. Finally, my gratitude goes to all of you our supporters and friends, the many countless faces who followed us “online” from South to North. This fundraising event would not have been possible without your full support in cash and kind, big or small. God bless you and reward you in return for your generosity!

If there are lessons I have learned from this Journey, they are these:

  1. Never be afraid to push for what you believe is for the good of humanity, for children.
  2. When you engage people, make sure they believe in your cause.
  3. The team is everything. If you have the right people in the team, you will succeed.
  4. Learn to accept the “smell” of each one in your team. Everyone is unique.
  5. True friends will never abandon you, they will stick with you.
  6. Even the poorest of the poor have something to give for a good cause.
  7. When raising funds, every amount counts, big or small, and every donor counts.
  8. Networking has a multiplying effect that favours your goal.
  9. You can never be too strict in staying with your plans. Be flexible when needed.
  10. Life’s journey is boring when the road is all flat. The uphills and the downhills make life more exciting.


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