Ethiopia is known for many reasons, but in the world of athletics it is known above all because it is a cradle of champions, a country where running is a way of life. But the country's young athletes who go out to run every day do so with hardly any resources.
"They lack everything. From basic sports equipment such as sneakers to one or more meals a day". This is what the group of people who formed part of the solidarity expedition that left for the African country this June to help these young athletes with donations, treatment and training tells us.
This initiative is Runners for Ethiopia. A project that officially began with the first trip in 2014 by the hand of Jordi Reig and of which the director of the 10K Valencia Ibercaja, Álex Aparicio, responsible for the part of donations and coordinator of the runners who travel with the expedition, is part. A project that became the solidarity entity of the 10K Valencia Ibercaja in its 2023 edition and to which the runners donated 3426 euros with their solidarity contributions.
The expedition of June 2023 was the seventh of the project, after organizing six consecutive trips from 2014 to 2019 and suffering a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic and the internal situation of the country. Finally, this year, it has been possible to resume and, despite not being one of the most successful in terms of number of travelers, it has been a success, "it has been an edition that has marked a before and after, a turning point".
Donations of sports equipment, treatment and training
This expedition was made up of 20 people, including runners and health personnel (physiotherapists, a doctor, a nurse and a physical therapist). Nearly 100 pairs of running shoes and more than 500 pairs of sportswear, including T-shirts, pants, tights, socks, windbreakers, tops and sports bras, were donated.
For a week, the group was able to experience firsthand the needs of the country's young athletes, as well as share with them their hard, daily training sessions, where smiles were never absent.
They have been able to carry out physiotherapeutic treatments, from dry needling to ultrasound scans to detect injuries. In addition to offering them basic training necessary for their daily life in the country. Help with a capital letter.
In this expedition, the travelers of the solidarity expedition told us, "we focused on Addis Ababa, where physiotherapists and health personnel provided training and treatments at the Ethiopian Youth Sport Academy. Ethiopian Youth Sport Academy". "The second part of the trip we went to Bekoji, at an altitude of more than 2,800m and several hundred kilometers south of the capital, and perhaps the most mythical place of athletics in that country (which would be Ithen in Kenya) and where illustrious surnames like the Dibaba or Bekele families come from". As a curiosity, in this small rural community in Ethiopia was filmed the documentary film Town of Runners.
Recognition by the Ministry and the Ethiopian Olympic Committee
Runners for Ethiopia's assessment of this sixth expedition is very positive. "We are very satisfied. We know that it is difficult to get back into the swing of things after three years of hiatus, but we are convinced that this year we have taken a new step to make the project even better known".
In addition, thanks to this trip and the visibility it has had in the country, the project has been elevated to the Ethiopian Ministry of Culture and Sport and the country's Olympic Committee. "On the last day we were sent off with a dinner and a presentation of diplomas in recognition of our work, at which the Minister of Sports and the head of the Committee were present. It is a giant step that can open the door for new future actions."
"We want to continue helping and we are already thinking about the next expedition in June 2024, which is also an Olympic year and that will mean that there will be even more professional athletes training in the country. Surely it will be a new interesting expedition that we hope more people will join and in which, above all, we hope to continue HELPING in whatever way we can."