SAN DIEGO — Put on your walking shoes, and get ready for the Oaxaca Education Fund 5K.
The annual event, which raises funds to provide school supplies, scholarships and food stipends to young people in five Mexican villages, will be held on Saturday, April 22.
Check-in will be at 8:30 a.m. in Canyonside Park, located at 12350 Black Mountain Road in Rancho Peñasquitos. The walk will begin at 9 a.m., behind Ballfield No. 4, and will follow a route that will take participants through the Rancho Peñasquitos Preserve.
Adult participants are invited to make a tax-deductible donation of $20; children walk for free.
Proceeds will be used to purchase school supplies for 1,500 preschool through high school students, provide partial scholarships to 23 college students, and give monthly food stipends to 48 orphaned and disabled children. The supplies will be distributed in Oaxaca in late July.
Last year’s 5K raised about $12,000.
The education fund is coordinated by Dr. Christauria Welland-Akong and Michael Akong, with the support of fellow parishioners Marti Martin and Cecilia “Cecy” Ayala and the assistance of other volunteers. Its history goes back to a ministry to migrant workers that began in 1985 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish.
Martin said that three women, Cathy Evans, Martha Wolfe and Sally Riley, had noticed campfires in the hills near their homes and went out to investigate. Discovering a migrant camp, they began bringing hot meals to the men living there.
At the men’s request, the parish pastor was asked to celebrate Masses for them at the camp. Over the years, the Masses would be celebrated at different locations, and attendance fluctuated.
Starting in 2010, with much of the agricultural land in the area being converted into housing developments, most of the migrants left in search of work. So, the ministry began a new initiative to assist the families of the migrant workers they had befriended.
The Oaxaca Education Fund was established. It held its first 5K in 2010. The event has been held at its current location annually, beginning in 2015.
Martin said “there’s a lot of camaraderie” at the 5K. Those who are out and about in the community will see participants and sometimes ask what they are doing, providing an opportunity to spread awareness.
The education fund relies entirely “on the grace of God and generous people” to carry out its mission, Ayala said.
“There’s a lot of sacrifice and praying that we do get the funds to be able to do this,” she said.
But the struggle is worth it when they see the faces of the villagers months later during the distribution of school supplies.
For more information or to donate, visit oaxacaeducationfund.org, call (858) 437-4001 or email email@example.com.