My hope for the project was to allow these rather isolated, low resource communities to use their environment and culture as a tool to promote education, health, and intercultural interaction, while boosting economic prosperity throughout the region.

Peace Corps Education Volunteer Shane Butler loves running, and he’s using his love of running to engage his local community in East Java, Indonesia.

“When I first arrived, people thought I was crazy running around the hills,” said Butler, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara. “Then they got used to it, and then my students joined me. Now I see more and more people practicing on their own. Running is so healthy for your physical health as well as your state of mind and willpower, so it’s been really rewarding to watch this transformation.”

Working with members of his community, Butler planned and hosted the first-ever marathon in the Mount Bromo region to infuse the local economy and bring people from all over the world together to learn about the local culture.

More than 900 people ran in the race, and runners represented more than 30 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Another 5,000 people came to watch the event and join the festivities, which included an arts and culture festival the evening before the marathon. The festival promoted all aspects of the local culture and featured dance and music performances, art displays, and traditional cuisine.

The project generated income for area restaurants and hotels, and donations were collected to support five school libraries in four different villages as well as one community library in the region. The donations will fund more books, tables and chairs at the libraries, and training for staff and students on library maintenance.

Butler teaches regularly at a local high school and runs an English conversation club. He also coaches cross-country running, and all 25 members of his cross-country team participated in the marathon. In addition to regular fitness training, cross-country team members learn about nutrition, fitness, hygiene, and social responsibility.

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