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'Run for Congo' Activist, Author To Share Message at Doane

When Lisa Shannon saw an Oprah episode on the atrocities befalling Congolese women she chose not to ignore it, and became an international activist for the cause, named by SHAPE magazine as one of the "Top 8 Women Who Care" and a 2010 member of the "O Power List."

Doane's Hansen Leadership Program will bring Shannon to the Crete campus October 10 to share her story with Doane and area communities. Shannon will spend the day meeting students. At 7 p.m., Shannon will give a lecture in Heckman Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Shannon's journey to change the lives of thousands of Congolese women began with a case of strep throat. Not feeling well, she sprawled on her couch and watched an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, which featured a journalist who called Congo "the worst place on earth...and the most ignored."lisa shannon, hlp speaker

The next week, Shannon read a companion story in O, The Oprah Magazine with personal accounts of abuse of Congolese women. She read how a woman was attacked by militia, who told her: "Even if I kill you, what would it matter? You are not human. You are like an animal."

Suddenly, it mattered to Shannon. "I was awakened to the atrocities," Shannon said. "...The millions who had died, the women being raped and tortured, the children starving and dying in shocking numbers."

She founded Run for Congo Women and became the first national grassroots activist in the United States working to raise awareness of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's forgotten humanitarian crisis.

"Lisa was selected as a Hansen Leadership Assembly speaker because her leadership is an excellent example of an ordinary person discovering an extraordinary problem, and finding an extraordinary solution," said Carrie Petr, director of the Hansen Leadership Program. "...The incredible thing about her is that she had no business doing this, she just decided to get it done."

According to an estimate by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), nearly 3.9 million people in Congo have died from war-related causes since the beginning of the conflict in 1998.

At first, Shannon decided to sponsor two survivors, or "sisters," as she called them, through Women for Women International. She soon wanted to do more and undertook a 30-mile run, where 80 sponsors gave $28,000 to support women in Congo. 

Eventually, Shannon left her job and her fiancé to raise more money, and found her organization, called Run for Congo Women. Currently, Run for Congo Women has raised more than $600,000 and sponsored over 1,200 women. From her work, multiple organizations have emerged, including A Thousand Sisters, an advocacy organization aimed at empowering women and men to become leaders and to end the violence in the Congo. 

Shannon has written a book about her work, entitled "A Thousand Sisters," which was profiled in The New York Times, Runner's World Magazine, National Public Radio, O (The Oprah Magazine), as well as ABC World News Tonight, Voice of America, CNN international, Fitness Magazine, Time Magazine, Venus and Marie Claire.

In her visits to the Congo, she met the women she sponsored and women who have changed her life.

"It's not my job to measure the results," Shannon said. "It's my job, as it is anyone's job, to show up."

For more information on the events, contact Carrie Petr, director of the Hansen Leadership Program, at carrie.petr@doane.edu or 402.826.8271