Carolina Day School rising senior Ryan Philip raised nearly $50,000 to benefit children in the African village of Rwinkwavu in Rwanda. Ryan was inspired by a visit to the town last summer with family working with Partners in Health, a nonprofit based in Boston that supplies medical services and improves health systems in areas of extreme poverty around the world.
While in Rwinkwavu, Ryan connected with many children. Of that experience, he said, “I didn’t know what to expect when I got to Rwanda as I only knew Africa through stories, movies, and pictures. We traveled throughout the country and met so many wonderful people. We saw first-hand the lingering impact of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and how hard they have been working to rebuild their country. I met kids of all ages and was immediately struck by their smiles, enthusiasm for life, and hope for a better future—even though they had so little. I was truly inspired.
“Of the many places we visited, I felt the most personal connection with the people in the tiny village of Rwinkwavu. There were so many kids milling around the village playing with any kind of makeshift toy they could find. Old bike tire tubes were the toy of choice as I watched the kids twirl them around with a stick for hours at a time. Each morning, my dad, my uncle, and I would go for a run in the village. At first, the kids would look at us with curiosity, wondering why we were running. As we smiled and waved to them, one-by-one they would begin running with us. They ran next to us with ease, not saying a word, yet I could still feel a connection. It’s true what they say, ‘A smile is the universal welcome.’
“It was at that point that I realized I wanted to help these kids. Immediately after that first run, my dad and I started discussing ways in which we could have an impact on the future of the children in Rwinkwavu. When I returned home, I had an idea. I knew that if I wanted to have an extraordinary impact, I would have to do something extraordinary.”
Ryan garnered the support of his friends and family members to run 100 miles to generate support for the town, including two donors that matched each gift dollar for dollar. Not only were his friends inspired, but the children in Rwinkwavu were as well; they ran a 100-mile relay on the same day that Ryan ran. “Ryan really wanted to figure out a way to pay it forward, and boy did he,” said his mother, Stacy.
On the morning of June 1, Ryan started out on his run through the mountains. By Sunday evening just before dark, he had completed 100 miles and raised almost $50,000.
“It was so amazing to see his grit and determination,” said Stacy, “He was surrounded by friends and family who gathered here to run along with him. He even had some teachers join him on the trail.” Ryan ran the last tenth of a mile with 20 of his fellow students and friends who gathered at Carolina Day School to greet him.
As he crossed the finish line he was mobbed by supporters, collapsing to the ground in a mix of exhaustion and elation. Twenty-three of his Rwandan friends in Rwinkwavu ran simultaneously.
“Collectively, that’s over 500,000 steps to bring our two countries closer,” said Ryan, “And this money will go to build housing and enhance health and recreation programs for the kids in Rwinkwavu.”