Until January 2005, Lisa Shannon, a co-owner of a stock photo company in Portland, Oregon, knew absolutely nothing about the deadliest war since World War II that's been raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the last 12 years. The fighting has endangered the lives and livelihood of those least responsible for any of the conflict: Congolese women — nearly 90 percent of whom have suffered the most brutal sexual violence imaginable in some villages in eastern Congo. After learning about this on an episode of Oprah, Shannon was astounded and decided that same month to do something about it. She sponsored two Congolese women through Women for Women International (opens in new tab), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help women survivors from war-torn areas of the world "rebuild their lives" through education and skill-based courses; and also resolved to run a 30-mile solo marathon to raise money for the women of Congo, which she named the Run for Congo Women (opens in new tab). Lisa saw her fledgling cause as a way to get off the couch, back in shape, and out into the world again. Her goal: Raise enough money to sponsor thirty Congolese women for one year; but after training for months and spreading the word through her small network of friends (who in turn asked their own friends), Lisa raised $28,000 on her very first run.
In 2007, Shannon quit her job, and became a full-time advocate for Congo. Although she was armed with little more than a handful of contacts, a shrinking bank account, and a "really clear sense" that she couldn't abandon the cause, Lisa self-funded her first trip to the DRC in 2007. For nearly six weeks, with the aid of translators and friends she met along the way, Lisa conducted group interviews with Congolese women and explored eastern Congo with the intention creating a documentary about her new "sisters" and their lives. The Portland native realized by the end of her trip that some of the most powerful moments she had witnessed had not been captured on camera, and she resolved instead to write a book about all she had learned. A Thousand Sisters, which was released in April 2010, details the events of Lisa's first journey to the Congo as well as subsequent trips.
Want to run a race to help these women? The Run for Congo Women is now held in 10 cities across the United States, as well as in three cities abroad. The next run is in Portland, Oregon, on June 26. Anyone interested in helping the women of eastern Congo can sign up individually on the Run for Congo Women (opens in new tab) website, or can search for pre-existing teams in their state and join in. "The day of the run is a very positive day," Lisa says. "It feels more like a celebration. Women can be matched on the spot with Congolese sisters, you can write letters to the women, or fill out postcards. People can walk or they can run. It doesn't have to feel like a heavy thing." And anyone can participate. "Friends and family and kids are welcome — a toddler ran in Portland last year!"
Proceeds from the Run for Congo Women benefit the organization Women for Women International, which enrolls Congolese women in a one-year, 20-person training course program that offers courses such as literacy and women's advocacy, as well as business and money management. Graduates receive $60, which has been used in the past to start businesses, buy land, or pay for their children to go to school. Furthermore, Women for Women has recently created a graduate network that tracks the progress of the former enrollees in their lives post-sponsorship, to make sure that they have truly become self-sufficient.
Cyber Monday Beauty Deals Live: Sephora, Charlotte Tilbury, Dyson, and More
We hunted down the best beauty deals of Cyber Monday so you don't have to.
By Jenny Hollander
Nordstrom Cyber Monday Sale: The Best Deals 2022
Nordstrom's Cyber Monday sale features can't-miss deals in fashion, beauty, home goods, and more.
By Julia Marzovilla
Examining Motherhood in 'You Were Always Mine'
The forthcoming book from 'We Are Not Like Them' authors Jo Piazza and Christine Pride asks the question: Who gets to make the choice to be a mom?
By Danielle McNally
In 'We Are Not Like Them' Art Imitates Life—and (Hopefully) Vice Versa
Read an excerpt from the thought-provoking new book. Then, keep scrolling to discover how the authors, Jo Piazza and Christine Pride, navigated their own relationship while building a believable world for Riley and Jen—best friends, one Black, one white, dealing with the killing of an unarmed Black boy by a white police officer.
By Danielle McNally
Love Has Lost
Quasi-religious group Love Has Won claimed to offer wellness advice and self-care products, but what was actually being dished out by their late leader Amy Carlson Stroud—self-professed “Mother God”—was much darker. How our current conspiritualist culture is to blame.
By Virginia Pelley
What Does "ROC" Mean at the Tokyo Olympics?
It's a temporary workaround in the aftermath of Russia's massive doping scandal.
By Katherine J Igoe
Trolls Thought I Was Anthony Weiner’s Cyber Mistress
Ten years later, I realize I shouldn’t have been ashamed.
By Megan Broussard
Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month With Gold House's 2021 A100 List
Vice President Kamala Harris, Oscar-winner Chloé Zhao, Naomi Osaka, and Saweetie are just a few of the leaders uplifting the AAPI community this year. Here's how to show your support.
By Ying Chu
The Unbearable Whiteness of Ballet
In an exclusive excerpt from her new book Turning Pointe, contributing editor Chloe Angyal lays out the ways that white supremacy is embedded in ballet's most basic foundations.
By Chloe Angyal
Magi Was Excited to Be the First Ethiopian on 'The Bachelor.' Then Came the Tigray Conflict
Her fellow contestants rallied around her during ethnic cleansing in her Ethiopian home.
By Emily H. Johnson
Soledad O'Brien's "Matter of Fact Listening Tour" Continues With a Fierce Dissection of American Identity
The next segment, "To Be An American: Identity, Race And Justice," brings together creators and thought leaders such as Judas and the Black Messiah director Shaka King and New York Times 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones.
By Lauren Puckett-Pope