Among the many 5-kilometer races on tap this weekend is the first Virtual Esperanza 5K, with people around the world participating in support of Yarmouth-based nonprofit Safe Passage.

Organizers of Esperanza, which is Spanish for “hope,” invite thousands of people to walk, run, bike or stroll to support Safe Passage’s vision of helping poor families in Guatemala build better lives beyond the Guatemala City garbage dump, where they live.

“Safe Passage has supporters all over the world,” said Alexandra Cowen, spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization based in Yarmouth.

“A lot of our work is happening in Maine and the United States, but the program is happening in Guatemala. This is a great way to link all of it in one day of really strong support.”

Three locations in Maine — Cumberland, Brunswick and Windham — will host events. Events are also planned in Boston; Chicago; Dover, N.H.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; Eugene, Ore.; Millbrook, N.Y.; Traverse City, Mich.; Haariem, Netherlands; Copenhagen; Denmark and Guatemala City.

The children, teenagers and parents who study at Safe Passage in Guatemala City will also participate.

The organization hopes to have 5,000 people participating globally. Participants are encouraged to collect pledges through, Cowen said.

To date, Safe Passage has collected more than $35,000 through donations on that website.

Money raised during the Virtual Esperanza 5K will help the organization fund school tuition for the children, provide them with textbooks, backpacks and school supplies, and support other parts of the program such as medical care and nutrition, Cowen said.

“It’s going to the heart of our program, to keep the services that we provide available,” she said.

“We can’t all be together physically in one place, but we’re showing each other and the kids in Guatemala how strongly we believe in their future and their power to change their own lives.”

Safe Passage was founded in 1999 by Hanley Denning, a Bowdoin College graduate, to provide education and social support services to more than 500 children of families at the Guatemala City garbage dump.

The organization, which has thrived despite Denning’s death in a car accident in January 2007, celebrated its 10th anniversary in November and hopes to help children in Guatemala City for at least another decade.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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