10 Jun

Heroes In the Pack

Maya Lama Dong

Too often in running, the figures of inspiration are limited to those competing at the front of the race. Of course, there is much to admire in the talents of the Paula Radcliffes and Mo Farahs of this world. But sometimes there are other relatively anonymous runners embedded within the chasing pack that are deserving of equal or even greater recognition. I met such a person recently.

Whilst Radcliffe and Farah were battling it out towards the front at the recent BUPA 10,000m race in London, Maya Lama Dong was over 4000 places behind them, eventually crossing the line in a modest 56mins and 53secs. But the 16 year old Nepali girl's story is not about gold medals or record-breaking times. It is more powerful than that. 7 years ago, Maya was dramatically rescued from an Indian circus where she has been trafficked and forced to work as a performer. These are not circuses as we understand in the Western world. This was an environment where young children are virtually imprisoned and suffer extreme violence and abuse.

They are sold to the circuses often from families where there has been a re-marriage and as step-children, they suddenly find themselves unwanted. They are removed from an uncaring home for nothing more than money and brought into a sickening existence, where they are inhumanely exploited.

The Esther Benjamins Trust is a charity formed over 10 years ago in memory of the founder, Philip Holmes' late wife, who sadly took her own life, citing childlessness as the reason. Holmes resolved that out of the tragedy should come some positive and set up the trust to perpetuate her values and offer hope to vulnerable children.

Maya was rescued at nine, one of over 300 children to have been brought into the care of the Esther Benjamins Trust. A similar number have been sent back to Nepal by the circuses afraid of the Trust's attentions. The Trust works aggressively works with local authorities in India, performing raids on illegal activities within the circuses and giving a home and hope to the effected Nepalese children.

Since her rescue, Maya has been slowly rehabilitated, cared for and educated. She is now training to be a health assistant and living within a nearby refuge to one of the Trust's centres in Kathmandhu, she is gaining independence and maturing into a fine citizen. Her recent trip to London was her first outside her country and recognition for the progress she has since made.

She was one of several runners who raced the recent BUPA 10000 to raise money for the Trust, including founder Phillip Holmes. Today the charity has over 130 children in its full-time care and they continue to fight for the good of trafficked Nepalese children.

The charity has guaranteed places in the 2011 London Marathon, the 2011 Silverstone Half Marathon and the 2011 BUPA 10000. If you want to support their efforts either by running or on their behalf or by donating to help give an opportunity to people like Maya, visit: www.ebtrust.org.uk or email: philip.holmes@ebtrust.org.uk