FARMINGTON — Seventeen-year-old Maryam Norton of Farmington wants to teach English, art, math and chess to impoverished people in the country of Peru this coming spring.
To fly there and for basic living expenses, the Micronesia native has been holding fundraisers like Saturday's debut Reindeer Run 5K and Kids' Mile races on the Whistle-Stop Trail in West Farmington.
Norton said she received "a nice donation" from the Farmington law firm of Joyce, David and Hanstein, and raised money previously at a Halloween dance.
Additionally, "people have been dropping off checks and cash, which is really nice," she said.
The Reindeer Run drew six children and 11 teens and adults and brought in $150 in entry fees.
"I'm surprised at the turnout, because I really had no idea," she said. "I held this race in order to volunteer for three months in Peru."
The weather didn't cooperate, dumping sleet and light rain on the venue, but the runners didn't seem to mind. Norton, however, who wore a light jacket and peacock-feather pants, shivered visibly.
"I'm just glad it's not pouring," Norton said. "I'm OK with sleet. That's better than pouring rain."
Norton, who graduates in January, has volunteered to serve with The Light and Leadership Initiative in Huaycan, Peru, outside Lima.
The initiative was founded by Lara Devries in 2007 after she visited Huaycan and saw the need for better education.
"So, it is a relatively new nonprofit," Norton said.
Ten to 20 people from across the world volunteer each year through Light and Leadership, most of them college-age, she said. They all live in a volunteer house run by a Peruvian house-mother.
"In the late 1900s to the present, a large group of Peruvians moved from their mountain villages to Lima to get jobs," Norton said. "But an inability to speak English or offer technological skills led to many of them moving to shantytowns outside of Lima."
The volunteer group helps these Peruvians learn English, technology, art and math to help them get jobs or further their education, she said.
Norton said she was considering volunteering to teach in Nepal, but picked Peru instead, "because it is a relatively stable country with an amazing history when it comes to art, language and architecture. I also wanted to volunteer with an organization that helps people raise themselves out of poverty through education, rather than just giving temporary handouts."
And while the former Alaska resident does run cross-country for Mt. Blue, she wasn't competing in Saturday's event.
"I'll just be making sure everything goes smoothly," Norton said.
She was assisted by her mother, Lynda Szenes, of Farmington and Amanda Luchini of New Sharon.
Santa Claus even pitched in, serving as the turn-around point for the Kids' Mile.
The first-place finishers in the children's race and the men's and women's 3-mile run each received a heaping plate of cookies.
Norton said she will attend college next year to major in English and foreign languages. She speaks French and is taking Spanish.
In 2006, when she was a sixth-grader, her family moved to Maine from Alaska. Szenes explained the move, saying they have family in New York and she likes Maine.
As for her daughter's upcoming trip to Peru, Szenes said she is thrilled.
"She was born in a developing country, so I'm excited for her and happy that she wants to do something to serve humanity," she said.