“From the Mara to the Marathon” CLICK NOW TO WATCH THE 60 MINUTE FILM FOR FREE /”SnagFilms”, ALSO, please read a recent, personal Interview with Anthony Edwards
August 15, 2010 § Leave a comment
From September, 2006 to July, 2007, the admired Anthony Edwards, best known for his eight year run as emergency room doctor, Dr. Mark Greene, on the hit television show, “ER”, as well as his infamous role as Goose, in “Top Gun”, traveled with his wife and four children on an around the world journey, focusing mainly on the Mara, one of the 26 regions of Tanzania named after the Mara River, and the Maasai Mara, a large game reserve in south-western Kenya, and the northern continuation of the Serengeti National Park, named after the Masaai people, an indigenous African ethnic group, and traditional inhabitants of the area. There are approximately 883,000 Maasai, and are one of the largest living tribes in the world. They are pastoralist, semi-nomadic, speak Maa, Swahili, and English, able to farm in deserts, and have resisted the Tanzanian and Kenyan governments request for them to abdandon their traditional lifestyle, to become more sedentary, and are very proud of their heritage.
Anthony had always dreamed of being a photographer for “National Geographic”, and stated, “Africa had always been a huge mystery to me.” While he and his family were on safari, a young Masaai, and scout named, Ole Kane Lettura, also referred to as Lettura, was working for a safari company in Western Kenya. Lettura, with a peaceful, down to earth disposition, took to the Edwards’, and invited Anthony on a run through the camp, explaining how much he loved to run, “how running was like a big game and a lot of fun”. As they ran together, they grew closer, sharing stories about one another’s family and friends, and Anthony thought it would be a great experience to offer Lettura the opportunity to participate in the 2007 ING NYC Marathon, while raising awareness for the organization, “Shoe4Africa.org”.
The two have shared their experiences with us in an hour long documentary, directed by Anthony Edwards, entitled, “From the Mara to the Marathon”. Please follow the young Masaai, Ole Kane Lettura, on his journey from Kenya to New York City to participate in the 2007 ING New York City Marathon, courtesy of “SnagFilms”.
“Shoe4Africa.org”, founded by CEO, Toby Tanser, Anthony Edwards/Chairman, along with Supporters/Sponsors, Kim Alexis/Supermodel, Natalie Portman/Actress, Cameron Diaz/Actress, and Cristiano Ronaldo/Football/Soccer Player. “Shoe4Africa.org” has distributed numerous shoes, 25,000 + in 2008, to communities in Africa, with the hopes of preventing hookworm, a parasitic disease and leading cause of maternal and child morbidity, causing cognitive and growth retardation, and anemia.
Preventing hookworm is only “Shoe4Africa”‘s 1st Step in education and health initiatives. “Shoe4Africa.org” also has provided AIDS Testing and Awareness programs on the sidelines of sponsored races, promoted empowerment by arranging 10 women’s-only races with over 5000 participants, promoted peace through the Kenyan Peace Races to bring rival tribes together after widespread violence following the December 2007 elections, bringing elite internal athletes from all corners of Kenya and their 42 tribes together to march for peace. They have furthered education by building the “Shoe4Africa Martin Lel Secondary School“, and is ALSO currently fundraising for “The Shoe4Africa Children’s Hospital”, the largest children’s hospital in Africa and one that is desperately needed to address children mortality and morbidity rates. As Mr. Edward’s stated, “because we are a small organization, we can be productive in many different areas and events.”
The NYC Marathon helped raise $120,000 for the pediatric teaching hospital, bringing the total close to $655,500. They will break ground at $1,000,000, however, they require $5,000,000 for bricks and mortar and $10,000,000 for beds/ equipment, Totaling: $15,000,000, in all.
“The Shoe4Africa Children’s Hospital” will be the largest children’s hospital in Africa, serving over 22 million people from Sudan to Uganda. It will prevent literally thousands of young children’s life’s being needlessly lost, as the Western Region of Kenya has a 13% child mortality rate, with over 330 fatalities annually, with pneumonia, HIV/AIDS, Diarrhea, Malaria, Dehydration Measles, and other Acute Respiratory Illnesses as just some of the major causes of death. All of which are treatable and preventable. The “Shoe4Africa” pediatric teaching hospital will also serve the region’s medial field as a highly-regarded teaching hospital.
They are currently seeking partnerships with foundations, individuals, and organizations.
Interview with Anthony Edwards:
Question: Sharon Abella: “What drew you to the cause “Shoe4Africa”? “How did you get involved?”
Answer: Anthony Edwards:
“I met the CEO/Founder of “Shoe4Africa”, and coach, Tobey Tanser, in New York City. I am drawn to entrepreneurs, however, it wasn’t until my family and I went on an around the world trip and actually saw a “Shoe4Africa” event first hand. They were helping to empower and respect women in Kenya, empowering local women though sports activities, community events and providing scholarships for schoolgirls in Kenya and Tanzania. I knew this was the organization for me.”
Q: SA: “Shoe4Africa” does not only collect sneakers/shoes to be donated to those in need. It is multifaceted. Tell us about their other focus areas.
A: AE: “Shoe4Africa” is just the first step in education and health initatives, because we are a small organization, we can be proactive on different events. For example, after the violence occurred following the December 2007 elections, we promoted peace through the Kenyan Peace Races to bring rival tribes together. Also as a result of the violence, we also came up with the hospital idea. There are currently no Children’s Hospitals in Kenya.
Q: SA: “What is the financial goal?
A: AE: “We are currently at $650,000-$700,000, and will begin breaking ground at $1,000,000. It is $5,000,000 for the bricks and mortar, and $10,000,000. for beds/equipment. All together $15,000,000. It will not only serve as the first children’s public hospital, but also as a pediatric teaching hospital as well. The goal is to reverse the high infant mortality rate, where 180 out of 1000 infants die.”
Q: SA: “How does the Masaai tribe differ from other tribes in Kenya/Africa? In the film, “From Mara to the Marathon”, you mentioned that the Masaai are the most intact, wild living tribe on earth, and that most tribes don’t exist anymore. Share some of their daily rituals.”
A: AE: “It is like being in an episode of “National Geographic”. The Masaai live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania along the Great Rift Valley. They live in huts made from mud, sticks and grass, called minattas, they are pastoralist, they raise and trade/barter, and sell cattle, goats and sheep as their primary source of income. They rely on meat, milk and blood from cattle for protein. They have a strong sense of family, community, and respect for their elders, have an incredible sense of pride of who they are, and are self-empowered because they are able to live off the land.”
Q: SA: Had Lettura been on a plane before? Did he have a passport?
A: AE: “He had never been on an airplane before. He did not have a passport. He had been to Nairobi before, (capital and largest city of Kenya), so he had seen a six story building before. And he has a cell phone, he has to go 20 miles to charge the phone, however, and we still keep in touch either by texting or talking via cell phone. Our way of life is not necessarily going to change their way of life. It is a misconception that they secretly want to be like us.”
Q: SA: “What was the greatest learning experience that you brought back from Lettura?”
A: AE: “Lettura is a great example of not being afraid, having confidence, knows who he is, does not feel threatened or in competition, he just owns it. I can generalize most of the Masaai that I met, and it is probably what keeps drawing me back. The Masaai have a lack of insecurity, warmth and ease in being with them, they treat you as friends, and are happy you are there.”
Q: SA: “Did Lettura know who Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot was? (Finished #2 in 2009 NYC Marathon in 2:09), when he met him?
A: AE: “Yes, he had heard of him. He is like the Derek Jeter of Kenya. Everyone knows Kenya athletes. The Kenyan press is very important. Kenyan newspapers are very valuable. With televisions being very few and far between, most rely on newspapers as their main source of information.”
Q: SA: “Lettura seemed to take to the big city life very well, whereas, I would think he might experience a bit of culture shock. He took the subways, went to the top of the Empire State Building, saw the Halloween costumes in Grand Central Station, Central Park Zoo, Were you surprised at how well he adjusted to NYC?”
A: AE: “If this was a reality tv series, I can just hear the producers wanting more of a reaction to his first time being subjected to Western culture. It was fun watching him observe and take it all in, and watching other people’s challenges. Fun watching him take in details of the small things. For example, he had never used a razor before. He had no problem wearing his shuka (Maa word for sheets worn wrapped around their body/usually red), although to show respect to our Western Culture, and in a natural human way, he wanted to wear Western clothes.”
Q: SA: “There is a lot of education that can be done: From water/food distribution, preventing illness, like dehydration, malaria, parasitic diseases like hookworm, donating sneakers, providing transportation to and from school, etc. How can the average person help? Do you recommend donating mosquito nets, shoes, volunteer time, financial donations?
A: AE: “Find something that you connect to or that is important to you. When the giver feels connected to giving, makes a difference. We need money for the “Shoe4Africa Pediatric Hospital. There is so much excess in the world, if we can somehow balance that out to other areas that need it. Don’t give blindly. Know where your money is going. I strongly encourage people to save up their money and get to Africa. Have a personal experience there. I guarantee you will find a connection where your donations will mean something, and will make an impact.”
Q: SA: “What can we learn from the Masaai, and their strong sense of community, pride in their heritage and culture?”
A: AE: “We are all so similar in relation to our love of family and community, because of that we are all connected and are brothers and sisters.”
Ashe Oleng: Thank you.
Please look for Anthony in the upcoming Rob Reiner film, “Flipped”, due out in September of 2010.