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Great Ethiopian Run – Part 2

It is difficult to know where to start in writing about my last week in Ethiopia. It has been an incredible journey with so much seen and done in the last 5 days. Without turning this into a diary, I just want to give you a glimpse into my participation in the Great Ethiopian run and some of the Self Help Africa projects we visited.

Pulling up in the bus on Sunday morning last, we joked that we were like the Irish bobsled team arriving for the Great Ethiopian run – It’s hard to describe what it was like lining up as one of 40,000 people in the country that produced some of the world’s greatest athletes (the night before the race we attended a pasta party and were honoured to get a photo with the great Haile Gebrselassie). The event was more like a carnival; with people dressed up, music and dancing; two guys even completed the race on stilts for charity. The atmosphere was fantastic and everyone we met was so friendly. The high altitude was evident when two flights of stairs had me out of breath in the hotel so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Turns out running amongst 40,000 wasn’t going to be easy either, so instead we ran, we walked, we danced and we talked to everyone we met. That night we joined the 100+ Irish participants for an evening at the Irish Ambassador’s house; all raising funds for other charities, Plan Ireland, Orbis and more.

We were a group of 19 people from all walks of life with 7 members from the ILCU (Irish League of Credit Unions). I raised over €3,000 for Self Help Africa and was really looking forward to visiting the projects and seeing first hand where the money raised was going. We visited several big rural communities and learned that Gorta Self Help Africa with the support of the Irish credit unions, are setting up local credit union-type organisations called SACCOs (Savings and Credit Co-operatives) in Ethiopia to educate people on how and why they should save. One must save a min of 20 birr (80cent) a week and after 6 months they can take out a loan. These SACCOs are changing the lives of families; we were invited to visit the homes of some of the members who showed us how far they have come since these initiatives were introduced. We met the wife of a man who runs his own farm and has bought a car which he runs as a taxi service as well as his farming

Throughout the trip we had poor Ciara and Ronan bombarded with questions about Ethiopia and Self Help Africa from how they chose an area to set up a project, the steps that are taken, school life in Ethiopia, the climate, the culture, traditions, new projects and the list goes on.

I would just like to thank everyone who supported my efforts and my colleagues efforts in fundraising for this very worthy event. These funds will not only help the people of Ethiopia but will educate them in the future to provide a better life for themselves and their families.

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