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Pocatello run benefits African sister city

They seem worlds apart – the city of Pocatello, and a small village in Burkina Faso, a country in northwestern Africa. But they were brought together Saturday in a 5k run and walk.

While the race started in Pocatello at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, eight hours before that, the small village of Kwaremenguelwas doing a similar 5k run and walk.

“They really do live in a meager existence,” said African Sister Cities Committee Treasurer Peggy Johnson. “It’s just like if you were to go camping, and all you had was a blanket and a bucket – and that’s it.”

Which is why almost 150 people came for the Pocatello run.

Half the proceeds maintain after-school programs here while the other half is donated to the village of Kwaremenguel.

“It’s really isolated,” said Johnson. “They don’t have any water or electricity. But they are getting solar power now.”

Pocatello and Kwaremenguel have been sister cities since 1999. Since that time, they have seen their number of college graduates at the highest level since 1988.

The African Sister Cities Committee has conducted several projects in the village, including building a school, creating opportunities for small business loans, and paying for kids to go on to high school and even college.

“Since then,” said Andrew Fletcher, an after-school program coordinator, “We asked, ‘What other fundraising things can we do, and how can we incorporate our students into a learning activity and participate with the kids in Kwaremenguel?'”

The 11 after-school programs in Pocatello decided to hold this project based on a Service-Learning model

The model focuses equally on learning about the population you are serving and the actual service itself.

And one of the first learning experiences was overcoming the language barrier.

“We’ve written letters to them in French,” said Fletcher, “and that was part of our project of learning French. And then we’ve also made friendship bracelets and sent those to them. It just lets them know we care about them and we’re thinking about them.”

Participants were also able to learn about other countries and cities at booths along the route. The way the route was set up, they started on a journey through the United States and, and at the end of the journey, they were in Kwaremenguel.

The fastest time was just about 17 minutes.

But everybody’s start and finish supported those in need.

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