Global 6K: Walking for water in the face of adversity

May 27, 2021
Above photo caption: Brett and Valerie Switzer at the 2019 Global 6K event in Bancroft, ON. Photo: Courtesy of Valerie Switzer

The last time I spoke with Valerie Switzer was in 2019. Back then she was gearing up to host her first World Vision Global 6K run for her community near Bancroft, Ontario. Despite being diagnosed with stage three cancer, Valerie, along with her community of 100 runners, raised $15,000 for water projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). 

A lot has happened since then. The world has changed with the global onset of COVID-19, but a lot has happened on Valerie’s personal journey as well.

a woman wears orange and runs through a balloon archway
Valerie Switzer at the 2019 Global 6K event in Bancroft, ON. A lot has happened since then​, but Valerie's passion remains. Photo: Courtesy of Valerie Switzer

In January of 2020, Valerie received news that her cancer had spread. From the time she was diagnosed, she decided taking a natural approach to treatment was the best option for her, but when the pain got progressively worse, the only source of relief was radiation. It got her to a point in which her pain was more manageable, but the side effects of the chemotherapy drugs were awful. 

Valerie has good days and hard days. Despite the struggle, she is still fighting.  

“I haven’t given up because I believe in God and I believe in miracles. I am in the final stage of my journey and it’s devastating, but I won’t let it stop me from living,” says Valerie. “Treating myself is my fulltime job, but with the support of my family, I’m able to look forward to the Global 6K again this year.” 

This year, for the third year in a row, Valerie has signed up to be a Global 6K Team Leader and she is showing no signs of slowing down. She has had to increase her fundraising goal four times since starting because she keeps surpassing it. The support has been overwhelming. 

Valerie says it will not be the big event it was in 2019, because of COVID restrictions, and she will be walking, not running this year, but she intends to make this year extra special. 

“We’re all missing a sense of community right now; we took for granted how special those times were. Despite that, this year’s Global 6K is important to me because I have to live in the moment. I’m not guaranteed next year, so I have to make this year great.”

I can’t help but be inspired by Valerie. You can hear the passion in her voice when she speaks – a passion much greater than her illness. None of us are guaranteed another year, and the way she lives in the present moment inspires me to do the same. She has taught me to keep reaching for my goals no matter how big or small they are, or how far out of reach they may seem. And she motivates me to celebrate the wins in life, because collectively, they amount to big things. 

When asked why she continues to walk for water despite her illness, Valerie said it’s because she believes every child in the world deserves clean water and she wants to be a part of that effort. Every time she hits $50 in funds raised, she’s excited to know that one more person will receive access to clean water, and it inspires her to keep going.

Her mantra, from the first time I spoke to Valerie, still stands: “Joy is a decision, not a reaction to circumstances.”

According to the World Health Organization, 785 million people lack even a basic drinking-water service. Women and children in the developing world walk an average of six kilometres daily, to gather water. Too often, from contaminated sources.

Over the past two years, Team World Vision has raised over $800,000 to help improve the lives of thousands of people in the region of Menkao, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with access to clean water and sanitation.

On May 29, 2021, join Valerie and thousands of people across Canada, in the world’s largest 6K for water – from wherever you are – and help provide clean water to the most vulnerable children and families in places like the DRC.

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