Residents get moving to support nonprofit’s work around the globe

It’s not too late to donate to a global nonprofit’s fundraiser – organized by two local residents — for grassroots initiatives around the world that educate children and empower women and girls. Supporters recently participated in a Move4Mona 5K walk, sponsored by the Bellevue-based Mona Foundation (Mona), at Edmonds’ Brackett’s Landing.

Mona works with local organizations and communities worldwide, and in 2020 supported the education of 2,286,575 students in 12 countries, including the U.S., Sierra Leone, Brazil, India, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Haiti, Panama and Gambia.

Organizers of the Move4Mona 5K walk, Shiva Riddell of Edmonds and Lee Lang Aw of Lynnwood, set a goal of reaching $500 in donations. More than $4,500 has been raised so far and true to the mission of Mona, 100% of that amount will go for education, training and scholarships for young students. The organization’s focus areas include universal education, gender equality and community building.

Shiva Riddell and Lee Lang Aw, organizers of Move4Mona 5K walk, at Brackett’s Landing.

“We know that once we educate people, we are on the way to alleviating poverty and creating social justice,” said Riddell, who serves on Mona’s advisory board and has been in the fitness and yoga industry for over 17 years.

Aw, who learned about Mona three years ago, was immediately impressed and interested in the initiatives it supported for disadvantaged communities including academic excellence, fine arts and character development.

“It brings me back to my childhood,” Aw said. “I come from a small village in Malaysia, and we had three classrooms for all six classes (grades) in a village of 100 families.” Aw finished high school in Singapore and graduated from college in the United States. “It makes a big, big difference when you get an education, and that’s why I support Mona. So, when I was invited to help with the Move4Mona 5K walk, I said yes!”

Aw, a former business owner in Lynnwood, has been in the United States for 40 years, but has never forgotten her roots in Malaysia and the freedom and access to opportunities an education can provide — especially for girls and women. “Today’s goal is to let more and more people know about Mona and hopefully we will get more support.”

Founded in 1999 by CEO Mahnaz Javid, Mona Foundation celebrated 21 years of charitable work in April and was a finalist for the 2021 Catalyst 2030 award, as Accelerator of Systems Change. Catalyst 2030 is a global movement of social entrepreneurs and social innovators who support the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals plan.

Move4Mona 5K walk participants.

“To see change a program has to be sustained,” Riddell said, “You can’t just drop in and help for a year or two and be gone. Mona is a long-term provider for the programs it supports.”

Riddell is already looking forward to next year’s Move4Mona 5K walk and hopes that it will eventually grow into a nationwide event that will benefit thousands of young students and help them achieve their dreams.

“When we widen our vision to include all of humanity,” Riddell said, “it is easy to see that we are more similar than different. Every child has so much unrealized potential; what better purpose in life than to advance that potential.”

Yvette Sanchez from Yoga Sanctuary and Shiva Riddell during the walk.

Sponsors of the Move4Mona 5K walk included All Printing Services, Hunniwater and Yvette Sanchez of Yoga Sanctuary.

You can donate to Move4Mona 5K walk until May 26 here.

— Story and photos by Misha Carter

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