Eloise Wellings is running for change
Eloise Wellings is on a mission.
Every time the Australian distance runner heads out for a run, she’s running towards a goal that means more to her than medals or records.
She’s running for change.
Wellings is a two-time Olympian and is competing in her fourth Commonwealth Games.
She is the fastest Australian woman over 10,000 metres in Olympic history and she’s also the co-founder of Love Mercy, a foundation working to empower communities in Northern Uganda to overcome poverty.
Wellings’ work with Love Mercy and her running career are so closely intertwined that when she competes at GC2018 in the women's 10,000m tonight and the 5000m on Saturday 14 April, she’s taking Love Mercy on the journey – literally and figuratively.
“I think about it all the time when I’m running,” Wellings told GC2018.com.
“A lot of our meetings are over the phone when I’m running. They’re recovery runs, I wouldn’t take my phone to the track with me, but it’s definitely brought a deeper purpose to running.
“I’m so grateful for the opportunity that running could be used for a bigger purpose than what I ever imagined.”
On the way to the Gold Coast, Wellings championed the Love Millions Challenge, clocking up kilometres with the aim of reaching a combined 1,000,000km by the GC2018 Closing Ceremony.
Business partners have committed to contributing funds at key milestones and Wellings is encouraging runners and walkers from around the world to join the initiative and add their kilometres to the cause.
Every Km I run between now and the Comm Games will have 2 purposes: 1. Achieve selection and get me ready to wear my favourite green and gold 2. Help our Love Mercy team hit 1,000,000km for the Millions Challenge • In the sessions when #1 hurts like crazy, thinking about #2 will help to pull me through. • Every Km that you run, walk or cycle can be just as valuable - so please join me. 1,000,000km is further than running to the moon and back. Getting it done in a few months doesn't sound possible, but I can assure you that it is. • This is about people and what we can achieve when we work together. It doesn't cost you a cent - our business partners are sponsoring the $$ that will change lives. Our job is to build a big team, and in that team, every kilometre is equal. Your effort is just as valuable as mine. • The best way you can help is to join our group and then encourage your mates to join too. • Please hit the link in my bio - sign up takes about 15 seconds ;) @lovemercyfoundation #lovemillions #irunforlove 📸 @rivbennett
The foundation was established in 2010 after Wellings met Julius Achon, a Ugandan Olympian and former child soldier who established the Achon Uganda Children’s Fund to care and provide for orphaned children.
Wellings first visited Uganda for Achon’s wedding, and was moved by the stories she heard and the children she met during the trip.
When Wellings and her husband Jon returned home to Sydney, they decided to start a foundation to raise money to sponsor as many kids as possible and help Achon with his work.
One month later, Achon called Wellings with the devastating news that 11 more people had died from famine, and their plans changed. They decided to create a food program, empowering families to create their livelihoods through farming.
“At the time, I’d just become friends with Caitlin Barrett, who is now our CEO,” Wellings said.
“She was studying international development at university and she said whatever we do, I think we should make it sustainable.
“The soil [in Uganda] is incredibly fertile, she said if all of Uganda’s soil was used to its full capacity it would relieve famine in all of Africa.”
And the Cents for Seeds program was born.
For a $30 donation, Cents for Seeds provides women with a 30kg loan of seeds, which can turn into a harvest of around 150kg.
The program has funded 10,417 loans so far and Love Mercy aims to fund loans to 20,000 women by 2020.
“We’ve added agricultural education and we’ve also started some village savings and loans programs,” Wellings said.
“We’re really excited, we have some massive goals for the future, especially for our Cents for Seeds since we know it’s such a powerful project.
“It’s taking away that older model of actually sponsoring individual children and it is empowering families to be able to create their own cash flow and sustainability to do that themselves, to pay for school fees and buy other household items and to put their kids through education after school and so that for me is really exciting.”
The program’s impact has been far-reaching, beyond what even Wellings had imagined.
One of the most significant effects has been uniting communities.
“I think we were born to be in community, that’s what I believe,” Wellings said.
“We were born to do life together and having been through so much with the war and so much struggle and hardship, I think if you’ve got a reason to meet together and a reason to encourage each other to farm and hold each other accountable to bring you back their loan, I think that’s a really powerful thing.”
Wellings is a big believer in the power of community – she’s experienced its effects on her own athletic career.
She’s part of a close training group, the Melbourne Track Club, and tries not to spend more than 10 days away from her husband and four-year-old daughter, India.
“I think it’s important to create that culture of encouragement,” she said.
“I love my training group and I love all of the people in it, we’ve had some really good times, we’ve had some really good training camps.
“One of the ones that sticks out the most is probably the one before the Rio Olympics last year. Everyone was just super fit, they were really mentally and emotionally ready and we were all just firing on all cylinders.
“I think when you’re in a group like that, that’s ready to go and take on the world at the pinnacle event of sport, it’s exciting when you’re all doing it together.”
In Rio, Wellings improved her 10,000m personal best by a massive 40 seconds to finish 10th. Her result, in a time of 31:14.94, made her performance the best by an Australian woman in the event’s history.
Wellings will compete tonight in the 10,000m, GC2018 will be the 35-year-old’s second home Games. She made her debut in Melbourne in 2006, placing fourth in the 5000m, and still considers it one of her favourite major championship experiences.
“The Melbourne Commonwealth Games was incredible. I’ve been to two Olympics since then but Melbourne was just amazing,’ she said.
“It was incredible just running in front of a home crowd and having all my family and my friends there. It was such a great stepping stone for the rest of my career as well.”
Find out more about Love Mercy or join Eloise in the Love Mercy Millions challenge.
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