Run For Congo: American Helps Congo's Women Escape Violence, One Step at a Time

Lisa Shannon's charity runs give hope to 35,000 Congolese women.

ByABC News
July 27, 2010, 1:32 PM

July 27, 2010— -- When Lisa Shannon started running five years ago, it wasn't to slim down or to tone up. It was to bring about change.

The middle class woman from Portland, Oregon saw a 20-minute segment on the war in Congo -- a war whose victims included tens of thousands of women who had been raped, tortured, and killed.

"I couldn't believe that the deadliest war since World War II was going on and I had never heard of it," Shannon said. "I needed to find some simple way to say they matter to me."

At the time, Shannon was planning her wedding and running a stock photo business with her fiancé. But she couldn't get the Congo out of her mind.

"Millions of people have died and effectively they haven't been missed," she said. "So I felt like I needed to find some simple way to send the opposite message."

So, Shannon signed up to sponsor two survivors or "sisters" as she referred to them, through Women for Women International, which offers Congolese women job training and education. She started off sending $27 a month to each of them, but soon realized a check was not enough.

Instead, she decided to run thirty miles, the entire length of Portland's wilderness trail, to raise money to sponsor more women. After four months of training, the day of the race finally came, and not even the rain could stop all her friends and relatives from waiting at the finish line.

"The whole time I was running that day, with eighty people being sponsored, every half mile represented another woman," Shannon said. With that victory, she was able to raise $28,000 for her "sisters" in the Congo.