WesSpeak on 5K

Students, Professors, and Middletown Residents Unite in 5K for Brighter Dawns

ByKimberly Muellers

On Saturday, April 16, crowds of high school seniors will be arriving at Wesleyan University, eager to see the college, professors, and classmates with whom they will spend their next four years. Amidst the excitement, many of these accepted students will be lining up, along with current Wesleyan students, faculty, and runners from all across Middlesex County, at the starting line of the 5K for Brighter Dawns. While their peers play Frisbee or sleep into the afternoon, these active students will run 3.1 miles to support the residents of a slum in Khalishpur, Khulna, Bangladesh, many of whom must walk for miles each day to collect water for their families.

In the Summer of 2010, Tasmiha Khan, a Wesleyan junior, founded Brighter Dawns to improve health in underprivileged communities in Bangladesh. After spending a summer treating diabetes in a slum in Bangladesh, Khan realized that in order to prevent the high levels of disease that occurred in the area, the residents would first need access to clean water and education on personal hygiene, two essential things that were almost completely absent there.

Under Khan’s guidance, Brighter Dawns raises money to provide these necessities. The organization, which began as a student group at Wesleyan and recently became a non-profit, will build 30 latrines and 10 wells in a slum in Khalishpur, and provide 1,000 sanitary kits to households in the area. Additionally, Brighter Dawns will hire three local women as community health officers and will train them to monitor the wells and latrines and to educate the community in sanitary practices. This unique, comprehensive approach will hopefully establish sustainable reductions in disease and improvements in overall quality of life throughout the community.

Next weekend, Brighter Dawns will take its vision of community engagement to Middletown, offering Wesleyan students and Middletown residents the much-needed opportunity for social interaction. As these two groups, which coexist within the same area yet have retained an air of separation in the past, join together and run, they will also be supporting another community that neither has met before.

“The 5K for Brighter Dawns Event…aims to bring together the greater Middletown community and beyond to help bring clean water to a slum in Bangladesh,” explains Jason Lee, a Wesleyan junior and the Development Director of Brighter Dawns.

Symbolizing this cooperation between their communities will be the mayor of Middletown, Sebastian Giuliano, and the president of Wesleyan University, Michael Roth. The mayor will deliver an introduction to the event at 10:30 a.m., and the race itself, attended by President Roth and family, will begin at 10:30 a.m. in Middletown, Conn. Participants of all ages and fitness levels are welcome to walk, jog, or run in the event, and water will be available for all. Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers.

Following the race, Wesleyan’s Interfaith Justice League, the co-sponsor of the 5K for Brighter Dawns, will continue the theme of unity with a Better Together Interfaith Brunch, where 5K participants and the public will be treated to free food and a discussion on the meaning of “interfaith.” The brunch, catered by Brew Baker’s, will begin at 11 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m. in Allbritton 311, 222 Church Street, Middletown, CT.

“The 5K event is also…an attempt to bring people of different religious or spiritual traditions to work together for a common cause, in response to a challenge put forth by President Obama earlier in March on inter-religious collaboration,” explains Carmen Yip, a member of Brighter Dawns and organizer of the Interfaith brunch. “Different religious communities in Wesleyan are invited and encouraged to take this opportunity…to continue these dialogues on why we serve our society, and more specifically, the Brighter Dawns water project. The brunch will also be a celebration of the various accomplishments and efforts achieved by the religious communities and the interfaith group this year.”

By promoting unity and healthy activity in the local community, Brighter Dawns wishes to give something back to their supporters who, through their generosity, are bringing hope to a community abroad.

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