Passionate about social justice, Sister Rita began volunteering at the ASRC 15 years ago. Previous to that, she had been working at a parish in Footscray and noticed the rising number of people seeking asylum within the community.
She says, ‘It was after what happened with Tampa in 2001 and the fact that we turned the boat and all those innocent people away. The same year, John Howard’s election promise was “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.”
My family came by boat in 1957. My mum was born in Syria, my father was born in Lebanon. We came as immigrants at a time when the doors to immigration were open. But the doors to immigration aren’t open anymore and we need to something about that.’
Run 4 Refugees began in 2007 and Sister Rita jumped on board immediately, and has never gotten off. She says she loves the sense of comradery at the event. ‘There are a lot of runners, all running for a cause. There’s a real sense of community.’
Our ‘Nun on the Run’ wanted to show support for refugees and to bring awareness to the difficult situation that people seeking asylum faced in Australia. Raising money was a secondary consideration. In 2011, she started visiting the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) the detention centre in Broadmeadows where 148 unaccompanied minors from Christmas Island and Darwin were housed.
‘I had been visiting those boys all thorough 2001 and so that year, I dedicated my walk to all those that were in detention,’ she says. Even now, ‘it’s about continuing to raise awareness of that. I still visit the detention centre every week. When I tell the guys inside that I did 10kms in Run 4 Refugees, they laugh at me. They don’t believe me! They want to see the video. But I tell them ‘I’ve got the medal, I’ve got photos!’ but they want to see me run.’
Despite not focussing on money, the ‘Nun on the Run’ has made over $2000 for the ASRC every year for the past three years. This year, she is hoping to get a team of ‘Nuns on the Run’ together and is aiming for a whopping $10,000!
Sister Rita’s tips for novice runners? ‘Just get out there and have a go! And don’t push too hard at the beginning. Also, just loosely hold on to the ‘run’ part. Walk, shuffle, do whatever you have to do. Have fun.’
You can support ‘Nun on the Run’ by making a donation to her page here.
Run 4 Refugees is the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s (ASRC) flagship community fundraising event. Whether you run, walk, skip or jog in one of five event distances – you will be championing hope and empowering people seeking asylum.
In 2017 Run 4 Refugees celebrates it’s 10th anniversary and since 2007, has raised almost $1 million to support the ASRC’s frontline programs and services. So what are you waiting for? Join #TeamASRC today! Head to asrc.org.au/run4refugeesLeave a reply →