Sam Feller runs QueerlyOut, a gay club night in London and is training to complete a marathon this year in Rwamagana, East Rwanda to benefit the survivors of the 1994 genocide.
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda resulted in the systematic massacre of 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in less than 100 days. First the militia killed the men and boys, then they moved on to the women.
The killing was done with maximum cruelty: gangs burned people alive, threw dead and living people together into pit latrines and mass graves, and compelled people to kill their own family members and relatives.
In some instances those who wanted to escape a slow and painful death by machetes had to pay the killers for the privilege of being shot with a gun. Imagine for a moment witnessing the horrific murder of your loved one: behind every death lies a mother, a father, a grandfather, an aunt, a brother, a cousin, a wife.
This appalling history is what has inspired me to run a marathon in February 2012 and raise money for Msaada, a charity which funds self-sustainable projects in Rwanda and targets those most affected by the 1994 genocide.
The UK-based charity assists the people of Rwanda in establishing self-help income-generating projects, and funds local agricultural projects that assist widows and orphans of the genocide to become self sufficient.
It comes as no surprise that in a country with such a disgraceful human rights record, homosexuality is frowned upon. Sexuality is considered a taboo subject, and although adult, consensual homosexual relations are not illegal, members of the LGBT community are still often blackmailed, harassed, physically assaulted and even jailed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
During the day, I work as a surveyor in East London and at night, I promote QueerlyOut, London’s most affordable weekly gay night in Escape Bar on Thursdays.
At times, it’s hard to juggle my day job, my business and my intense training schedule. The training is really demanding, but I just ran 14 miles last weekend and I’m set to run 15 on Saturday. It’s doable, but you’ve got to be dedicated, because running for 4 hours straight is no easy task, particularly when it’s dark, cold, wet and miserable outside.
That said, I love running to David Guetta and Rhianna hits on the weekend, and then listening to the same tunes that I personally request at the club on Thursdays… It keeps me on my toes!
I’m no stranger to challenges. Last year, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and in 2008, I ran the London marathon. I raised £3,000 for charity from these two events and I’m hoping to raise another £1,500 for Msaada this year.
Donations are welcome. Please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/rwandanmarathon to pledge your support and help me reach my target.