Two young Armidale men, who met through their shared love of soccer, will run their first marathon this weekend while raising money for the local Ezidi community.
Tom Campbell and Shuku Sunzu are running a 42-kilometre marathon on Saturday, December 12.
The money they raise will go towards Armidale Sanctuary's Digital Connections for Armidale's Ezidi Community project.
The project was created after it became apparent during the COVID-19 lockdown that while members of the Ezidi community were proficient in using mobile phone technology, their knowledge of using technology for administrative and educational purposes was less developed.
"A lack of digital literacy caused a problem for them in accessing online teaching during the Covid-19 lockdown," said Armidale Sanctuary president Jeff Siegel.
"The project will cost $17,000 and will provide necessary skills to the community not only for learning online but also for getting information, doing online banking, paying bills, etc.
"The money will fund a half-time technical officer to provide technical assistance to Ezidi families to purchase, set up and use computers."
Tom and Shuku both play for South Armidale United, and both wanted to run a marathon and raise money for a good cause.
Tom was familiar with the Ezidi community through his mother who works for Armidale City Public School where there is an Ezidi education program, and Shuku is from Burundi in Central Africa, and came to Australia as a refugee when he was 12-years-old.
Together they have already raised more than $4,500 through their GoFundMe page, donation boxes at various pubs, and donations made directly to Armidale Sanctuary from Cliff Wright Motors and many individuals.
"Add this to the $2,500 already pledged by Armidale Regional Council, Rotary AM and Armidale Sanctuary for the project, and this leaves a goal of $10,000," Mr Seigel said.
"People are urged not only to make tax-deductible donations to the Marathon Fundraiser but also to come out on Sunday and support the two young men."
Tom and Shuku will start their run at 6 am at O'Brien Electrical, 4 Southern Cross Drive (off Drew St near the viaduct) and will finish back there between 9.20 and 10.15 am.
"Tom's family is putting on a free barbeque at the finish, starting at 9 am," Mr Seigel said.
"And everyone is invited!"
Tom and Shuku will run up Shambroke Avenue, continuing up Old Inverell Road, left at Dumaresq Road, across Bundarra Road following Pinegrove Road, then left on Mt Butler Road, turning back just past Arding Road.
"It would be great if members of the wider community could run a bit with Tom and Shuku at the start of the run at 6 am, or anywhere along their route, or at the end over the finish line," Mr Seigel said.
"To run the last five kilometres with them, meet at the corner of Dumaresq Road, and Old Inverell Road by 8.55 am; to run the last one kilometre, meet near the former railway crossing where Shambrook Ave becomes Old Inverell Road by 9.10 am."
Donations can be made at the barbeque on the day of the marathon or on Tom and Shuku's GoFundMe page here.
More than 4000 Ezidi refugees have come to Australia since 2016 as part of a government humanitarian resettlement program. Two hundred arrived in Armidale in 2018, and there are now 650.
Many still have relatives in captivity; others have lost parents and children.
The Ezidi, who claims to be one of the world's oldest religions, have been persecuted for centuries, called devil-worshippers and infidels by Islamic extremists. ISIS invaded their homelands in Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Today, only around 800,000 of this Kurdish-speaking people survive in the Middle East.
Armidale Sanctuary co-operates and liaises with Settlement Services International, Northern Settlement Services and other agencies with the settlement of the Ezidi refugee community in Armidale and other refugee-related matters.
Note: We have used "Ezidi", the community's preferred spelling, rather than the more common "Yazidi".