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September 29, 2023

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5k run organized to help fight sex slavery

Participants who run the Aruna 5k this Saturday will fund an organization that helps women in the sex industry in Mumbai, India.

Ben Zauski, student director for the Aruna 5k, said that the race is a fundraiser for an organization called the Aruna Project.

“The Aruna Project is actually an NPO [non-profit organization] that funds what is also called the Aruna Project in East Asia, which is a physical location in the brothel district,” Zauski said. This brothel district is located in Mumbai.

Zauski said the Aruna Project location provides women involved in sexual slavery with four benefits.

These four benefits are basics needs like food, water and shelter; trauma counseling for rape; day care for their children, so the children do not have to stay in the brothels; and education.

Zauski said the education the women receive allows them to leave the brothels and pursue occupations elsewhere.

The money raised by the 5k will fund each of these four things.

Director of Cru Nick Gillispie brought the Aruna 5k to the University after one of Cru’s mission trips to Southeast Asia brought the Aruna Project to their attention.

“We thought, how can we bring this to campus?” Gillispie said.

The first Aruna 5k was set up at the University of Cincinnati by Ryan Berg, a staff member with the branch of Cru there. This gave Gillispie the idea to bring the 5k to the University’s campus three years ago. Now 16 races exist across the country.

Zauski said that the 5k is not a part of Cru, but that Cru is still a partner.

Gillispie said partners are divided into two types: financial partners that pay for the race and partners on campus that get students involved.

“Cru has been the one that spearheaded both,” Gillispie said.

Zauski said the Aruna 5k is different from other races because “the money goes directly from Bowling Green State University to the Aruna Project.”

He said the money needed to organize a 5k usually comes from a few dollars taken out of every registration fee.

“Our 5k, though, is fully funded, which means…every one of those $20 for registration goes directly to the women, every dollar that someone raises goes directly to the women,” Zauski said. “We take no profit out of it, we take nothing to put the race on.”

Gillispie said that the money raised online goes straight to the Aruna Project location.

“It doesn’t ever come into our hands,” Gillispie said. “We point people to give directly to the Aruna Project.”

Leah Oliver, chair of the registration committee for the Aruna 5k, said the procedure for checks and cash is only slightly different.

“People usually just make their check out to BGSU Cru…and then Cru sends it off to the Aruna Project,” Oliver said. “It’s the same way, it goes straight to the Aruna Project, but it just has an extra step.”

Oliver said most of the money comes from donations to sponsor runners.

“When you register online, you are provided with an online fundraising page personalized for you and then you can give that URL to your friends and family,” Oliver said.

Oliver said while it costs $20 to register, individuals running the 5k have sometimes raised as much as $600 through donations.

Gillispie said the first two 5ks raised a total of $18,000 combined.

Beyond raising money, raising awareness about women trapped in the sex industry is also a goal of the Aruna 5k.

“These things are not going to make CNN tonight, these things are not going to be on the news, these things are most likely not going to be talked about,” Zauski said.

Oliver felt that race could have a huge impact.

“Just by coming together on one Saturday morning and giving two hours of your time and $20 out of your pocket, [students] can actually change someone’s life on the opposite side of the world,” Oliver said. “It is a great cause. It’s just a little bit of time and a little bit of money, but it makes a big difference.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 160 runners had signed up for the race, Oliver said.

The Aruna 5k begins at 10 a.m. Saturday on University Lawn. Registration is available online and before the 5k beginning at 9 a.m.

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