Bitten by the running bug

Rev Dave Sweeney enjoyed his relay team experience at the 2017 Belfast marathon so much, that in 2018 he decided to run the full marathon. Why? He tells us here…

What sort of numpty decides it would be a good idea to run a marathon?! Well, this sort, I guess!

Having been “out of shape” for the best part of 20 years, a few years ago I began a journey back to health and fitness. Initially this was through walking regularly and diet, but as weight decreased and fitness improved, I was encouraged by a good friend to start running. I never had been much of a longer distance runner at school, much preferring the short distance sprints . However, the bug bit.

At the start, I was content just going out for 2 or 3 miles a couple of times a week and doing the odd Parkrun. Then, in 2017, I decided to take part in the Belfast City Marathon as part of a relay team. There were three of us from Bloomfield Methodist along with two others (Michael Sloan and Peter Kerr). For me, as minister of a church, it was an excellent way to promote the work of World Development and Relief with the congregation. Personally, the buzz of the day, taking part with thousands of others was just amazing – and that was just over 4 miles. I think a seed was planted that day – not that I realised it then. 

In January 2018 I had decided that I might like to train for a half-marathon and had begun to do so. Then the promotional material arrived from Tim & Laura and I thought, sure, I’ll put together another relay team – that worked well last year. A bit more support for WDR, that’ll be great. About two weeks later, I heard that my former team mate, Michael, was going to do the full marathon; another colleague told me, ‘you run a lot, you could do that no problem’. Before I knew it, I had my entry fee paid and was now doing a marathon in 3 months’ time!!


I have to say that the support of my local church, of family and friends completely blew me away as I prepared to run. Huge generosity in giving to WDR in support of Dabane; moral support and encouragement when I thought I couldn’t do it; people on the day who came out and cheered me on.

Doing the full marathon was an amazing challenge and opportunity. It took more out of me than I ever knew I had to give! Achieving the time goal I set myself brought a great personal sense of achievement, but more than that, to know that I had encouraged many to support WDRF and that people in Zimbabwe would have clean water to drink brought even greater fulfilment. 

Time is short if you’re thinking of doing the full marathon – but if you have any running training behind you, it’s still possible. But there are loads of other ways you can get involved – relay runner, walker, fun runner. Or sponsor someone else who is taking part. Just do it – you won’t regret it!

If you’d like to join us at the 2019 Belfast Marathon, please email Laura. There are 5 events to choose from, including a 2.5 mile Fun Run/Walk, so there’s an event for everyone! This year our fundraising is for Wenchi Methodist Hospital in Ghana.  


In a previous blog, I reflected upon an annual international list of countries ordered according to the degree of corruption. Rather a negative list. Well, here is the antidote to that list; the Charities Aid Foundation’s (CAF) “World Giving Index for 2016 – the world’s leading study of generosity”.

Now we can feel good about ourselves again, although it depends upon where we find our nation on the list!

So how did Gallup measure generosity when carrying out this research for CAF? Well, they looked at three measures of generosity and asked 3 simple questions.

In the past month have you:

  1. Helped a stranger or someone you didn’t know who needed help?
  2. Donated money to a charity?
  3. Volunteered your time to an organization?

So, good to see that financial giving was not the only measure!

“Money is not the only commodity that is fun to give. We can give time, we can give our expertise, we can give our love or simply give a smile. What does that cost? The point is, none of us can ever run out of something worthwhile to give.”

Steve Goodier


And what’s this got to do with Irish Methodist World Development & Relief (WDR) and its work around the globe? Well, essentially, WDR could not be able to partner with people in organisations if it was not for the generosity of supporters. But also, more importantly, nothing would be happening at all if certain people had not, at some point in their lives, decided to forego what they could have had or done, in order to serve their communities by using their skills and time to change things. I’m talking about many of the staff and volunteers in partner organisations. I would not embarrass them but I could name partners who could have earned more elsewhere; a different location or different career. However, they chose not to do that. I wonder why?

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

John Bunyan


Okay, okay; the list! The top ten most generous countries:

  1. Myanmar (formerly Burma)
  2. USA
  3. Australia
  4. New Zealand
  5. Sri Lanka
  6. Canada
  7. Indonesia
  8. United Kingdom
  9. Ireland
  10. United Arab Emirates

Myanmar’s top position at No. 1 may confound your assumptions as it is only classed as a lower-middle income country by the World Bank. So it would appear that generosity is not necessarily linked to wealth. And yes, we can contrast this with ongoing reports of suffering and the contested rights of the Rohingya people within Myanmar’s borders. Interestingly, 80-90% of Burmese people are practising Buddhists with as many as 99% of those being Theravada Buddhists. Followers are required to donate to those living a monastic life. “Required’ is the interesting word here; a challenge to any of us that claim allegiance to a faith which also ‘requires’ generosity and looking out for others. In Myanmar they do it.

“I care not for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.”

Abraham Lincoln


Interestingly Kyrgyzstan has fallen from 18th to 34th place. It had risen 65 places the previous year when the survey interviews, in this predominantly Muslim country, occurred during the holy month of Ramadan when followers of Islam are encouraged to help those in need. In 2016, the interviews were conducted one week after Ramadan. It is great to see that religion and faith can better our behavior towards others but a shame if we only follow those prompts at certain times of the year; whatever our religion. Saying that, there has been a general increase in Kyrgyzstan’s ranking over time.

“That's what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.”

Simone de Beauvoir


A special mention for Turkmenistan and Kosovo who have both increased their ranking by 56 places. Peru, Jordan, Cameroon and Nepal have also risen significantly. Why? I have no idea.

You want to know the bottom ten don’t you. Is that fair? (You can find the full report at the bottom of this page.)

Further analysis shines a light on some patterns and tends. For the first time, men participated more in financial giving (globally) than women. Those aged 50+ gave more than 30-40 year olds and both of these gave significantly more than 15-29 year olds (well they are still making their way in life and have less disposable income – that’s it, isn’t it?). Men also volunteer more than women (23.4% compared to 19.9%) but I would imagine this is affected by the fact that, in many societies, women are still more likely to be running households and looking after children and so would have less free time.

Volunteering their time is where younger people come into their own as they give more in this way than other age groups. Similar global analysis can be done on ‘helping a stranger’.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”

Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version


Where does generosity as part of our make-up come from? Perhaps it can be learned to some extent but I don’t think it can be forced (it wouldn’t then be totally genuine). However, surely it is from within that genuine selfless generosity comes. For some, it is faith that shapes them. For others it may be a lived experience or a living example that moves them. For others, it’s just seems to be who they are. Irish Methodist World Development & Relief is just one attempt by those who call themselves Methodists (and followers of Christ) to give ourselves to others. We don’t always do it and we don’t always do it well but it should be our aim.

WDR thanks those supporters who give their time, skills and money to the work. Thank you to our friends who head up and work for our partner organisations and who choose to stay when others would have left for greener pastures. And thank you to beneficiaries who work with partners and are an example of fortitude, courage and hope personified. Together we are being generous to each other, giving what we can so that life can be better for us all.

Beneficiaries in Ghana, working with Methodist Development & Relief Services

Beneficiaries in Ghana, working with Methodist Development & Relief Services

“I come in a world of iron...to make a world of gold”

Dale Wasserman, Man of La Mancha


Read the full report here.


Tim Dunwoody

World Mission & Development Officer