My 110 Hour Trip to Brussels, Belgium and Back
by Kristen Findley
I told myself a million times it was going to be ok if I didn’t get all my miles in, if I consumed above average amounts of chocolate, waffles, and beer, and if my sleep fell short of the normal 7.5-8 hours. I wasn’t going to Belgium to train; I was going to spend a few days with my mom at an international conference for a club that she is heavily involved in. Despite my excitement for 1) hanging out with Mama Fin and 2) visiting my 32nd country, I felt anxious as I boarded the plane about temporarily deviating from the typical runner life-style.
I had little idea of what to expect, but what I did know had me intrigued. I knew that the club was called FAWCO (Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas), that my mom was treasurer on the board, that the conferences took place annually in a different country each year, and that my mom always returned from the conferences raving about how inspired and empowered she felt. What could possibly come of a weekend spent with 100 middle aged women and me in Brussels, Belgium!?
Mama Fin and me throwing back some Belgian suds
The conference was comprised of a series of meetings regarding the happenings of 2013, the agenda for 2014, motivational speakers, fundraising events, and workshops. Although my mom had explained to me what FAWCO was all about on several occasions, it took being there and experiencing it to really get a feel for it. FAWCO is a 2 fold organization comprised of representatives from 33 different countries. First, they work to resolve issues pertaining to citizenship and voting rights issues for Americans living abroad. Second, they are a not-for-profit NGO with consultive status to the United Nations that works to alleviate global issues such as human rights violations.
Every year, each of the clubs that belongs to FAWCO partakes in their own philanthropic projects unique to their area’s specific needs, in addition to an overarching target project addressed by FAWCO as a whole. Last year, the target project was to dig wells in Cambodia so that the local population had access to clean water. This year, the target project is to help transition women who have been subjected to sex trafficking into a self-sufficient livelihood.
I was extremely moved to see so many passionate women willing to give their time and money, and be so proactive and creative in working towards what they believed in. I understood entirely the feelings my mom had tried to convey in years past and it was amazing for us to experience it together. The trip made me realize how easy it is to get all wrapped up in your own world and forget about the less fortunate out there. Putting it all into perspective, missing a few days of running WASN’T the worst thing in the world.
Lastly, I wanted to note another parallel experience I had while there: parent-child role reversal. No, I wasn’t telling my mom that maybe her skirt was just a little too short, telling her that filet mignon isn’t pronounced how it looks (fil-LET MIG-none), or explaining which wine goes with which type of meat. I was there supporting her in her passion and seeing her with her friends in her element. Parents come to our graduations and our track meets, but it is all the more rare that we attend their functions. I proudly watched my mom gracefully deliver a speech to a roomful of people, dress up in full-costume for the themed live auction, and be a general embodiment of class and fun over the course of the weekend.
I am so glad to have shared that experience with my mama (in addition to mussels, waffles, chocolate, a couple pints of beer, and many a good laugh).
Oh— and I DID manage to run every day I was there 🙂
Me (left) and my ‘buddy’ (right). I was assigned as a first-time conference attendee at the around the world themed live auction.
P.S. Please, please check out the link below to learn about this year’s target project!!!! You can donate used bras to the Free the Girls Organization so that former victims of sex-trafficking can re-sell them.