Meghann Gunderman, Runner
Founder of The Foundation For Tomorrow
Meghann Gunderman, grew up in Charlotte and went to Charlotte Country Day for 13 years. She started running track and cross country at the age of 9, finishing her first 10K in just over 48 minutes. Her early success pushed her to really want to become a runner or as she says, “at least LOVE competition”. She ran all through elementary and middle school and at Country Day where she participated in indoor and outdoor track, as well as cross country. She also ran her first two years of college at St. Andrews in the United Kingdom. After taking a year off from running and competing, she started to train for her first marathon in 2005 – the Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego. According to Meghann, running is the one time of day she has to think about nothing but her surroundings. “I hate running with headphones and on a treadmill,” she says. “Taking in nature and the outdoors is part of the love of running for me!”
The Foundation for Tomorrow
Currently there are 34 million orphans in Africa, nearly 12 million orphaned from AIDS, and Charlotte native Meghann Gunderman has held the hands of many of those children she knew had little hope of a viable future.
“It was painful, vivid, and frightening and I had to do something,” said Meghann. “Most of these children lost their mothers before their first birthday, and then their fathers abandoned them. Few fathers ever come back to get their kids, but if they do, they come when the children are old enough to earn money to contribute to their income.”
Meghann knew that before any major changes could occur within the country, more children needed to go to school. She believes that education attacks poverty at the roots and builds the foundation on which nations can develop. According to Meghann, a child can only remove herself from the cruel circle of poverty if she is aware of what the world has to offer.
“I went back the next summer and I recruited friends and family to invest in a Scholarship Program that would sponsor children who were soon going to “age-out” of the orphanage and had nowhere to go,” she said. “Thanks to those early efforts I was able to send four children to boarding school.”
When Meghann returned to the U.S., she began working at a bank but her heart was still in Africa. She talked about the plight of African orphans to anyone who would listen and continued to gain sponsorships. She soon left her job and headed to Southern Africa for three weeks, which turned into two and a half months.
“I went back to see the beauty of the land and the people. My friends living on the continent convinced me that through the kindness and generosity of others, I could make TFFT work. I knew I couldn’t wait another minute to give a child a chance,” she added. “It could have easily been a cause I continued to do on the side,” said Meghann, “however, I knew I had the passion and ability to affect change on a global scale. “
The result: The Foundation For Tomorrow, a movement to empower Africa’s children through education.
The Foundation For Tomorrow and thirty-five adventure seekers will embark upon a remarkable journey into Africa’s past that promises to build a bridge to the future for thousands of orphaned and abandoned children. On July 16, 2010 the RIDETZ team will travel to Tanzania, East Africa to participate in the first ever, 400-mile bike ride across the country to raise awareness and funds for The Foundation For Tomorrow (TFFT). This bike ride from the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro to the Indian Ocean follows a 19th century slave trade and early explorers’ route.
This challenge will test the riders’ physical limits as well as give each rider a firsthand look at how TFFT’s work is helping Tanzanians craft their own future through quality education. Along the way, riders will experience a unique opportunity interacting directly with Tanzanians benefitting from TFFT’s initiatives. Through town hall meetings, riders will hear directly from impoverished Tanzanians facing centuries old hurdles, including lack of fundamental needs, notably quality education.
RIDETZ is intended to raise funds necessary to grow its educational initiatives, and simultaneously develop relationships in new regions within the country. The goal of further expansion includes improved understanding of what constitutes effective education in the eyes of those receiving it.
While on the route, participants will stay in tented camps and lodges each night in the wilderness, exposed to the raw conditions of East Africa. It is such a rarely used trail that many wild animals still call it home. The satisfaction that the riders will leave with will last a lifetime and be a catalyst to inspire others to work towards making high quality education universally accessible.
Will you be one of them?