Footy friends inspired by Rift runners
Former Perth footballer Aaron Zucconi meets locals in Kenya's Rift Valley.

In the six years after Aaron Zucconi and Josh Bond last ran on to the field together for the Perth Football Club, their lives took distinctly different paths.

Mr Bond, the son of a South Perth minister, was only 26 when he founded a charity in East Africa that has expanded globally and won praise from Australia's greatest marathon champions.

He left his teaching post at Somerville Baptist College and based himself in the US to study international development.

Back in Perth, Mr Zucconi, a 98-game Demons star and fun-loving larrikin, took a couple of self- imposed breaks from football and dabbled in the video production industry.

But when his curiosity with Mr Bond's charity work led to a catch-up over coffee early last year, it set them on a journey into the heart of Africa to shine a light on the birthplace of some of the world's best runners.

The result, a documentary called Running the Rift, premieres in Perth on May 1 and New York on May 7.

"A lot of good stuff is happening over there and I don't think that gets told," Mr Zucconi said.

"You see the fly-covered children and hear the stories of people walking forever for water, but there are a lot of local people over there with their own initiatives.

"They are immensely positive and what I took from it is people tend to band together and help each other out."

The documentary follows Mr Bond, 29, and Mr Zucconi, 27, as they experience the hardships and inspirations of life in Kenya's Rift Valley, the home of so many marathon champions.

It explores the impact charities can have on Third World communities and shows damage can be done despite good intentions.

"There are some amazing stories but I learnt that charities can do harm, too," Mr Zucconi said.

"People think they're doing the right thing by going in and doing it themselves, but they're taking work away from the local people and leaving them unskilled."

Mr Bond's charity Sonlife International focuses on upskilling and empowering communities at a grassroots level.

From health camps, an adult school and a greenhouse in Nairobi to a goat farm and a library in Ndeiya, the aim is driving sustainable change.

"We are a pretty generous generation," Mr Bond said. "In fact, we are the most generous generation yet.

"A lot of people have the same general questions - is anything being achieved?

"It's very healthy to ask those questions."

As part of the journey, they met Australian athletics greats Robert de Castella and Steve Moneghetti, two men with a wealth of experience with both charity and the runners from the Rift Valley.

The West Australian

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