When I joined ORBIS Ireland as development manager in October of this year, my first project was to organize and accompany twenty-three ORBIS Ireland board members and supporters to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to take part in the Great Ethiopian Run on November 23, 2008.
The twenty-three runners came from various walks of life; a number of them are ORBIS Ireland board members or their friends, and some supporters heard about the run through an advertising campaign. The participants all had one thing in common–-a desire to support ORBIS Ireland’s commitment to eliminate blinding trachoma in the Gamo Gofa, Konso and Derashe regions of Ethiopia by the end of 2012.
Each participant was asked to raise €3500 for the projects in Ethiopia. Over many months prior to the trip they all rose to the challenge and currently ORBIS Ireland looks to raise more than €50,000 from the campaign. This amazing figure was achieved through individual donations and creative fundraising events such as bag packing in supermarkets, a curry night, a sausage sizzle, a race night, a comedy night…I could go on. All in all every single person put forth a huge effort into raising significant funds, proving their dedication and passion for ORBIS.
The 10km road race - at 10,000 feet above sea level - is known as the largest mass participation sports event in Africa,with over 30,000 people taking part,including world renowned athletes Haile Gebrselassie,Richard Nerurkar,Sweden’s 2004 Olympic Heptathlon champion Carolina Kluft and the United Kingdom’s 5000m specialist Mo Farah.
Just after dawn, around 8AM, these athletes joined 30,000 registered participants in Meskel Square, Addis Ababa to start the race. Our twenty-three ORBIS Ireland runners also joined the crowd. While we stretched and psyched ourselves up for the run we were entertained by local Ethiopian musicians and dancers.
Then at 9AM we were off...
As we crossed the starting line there was singing, chanting, cheering – an excitement you could not help but be swept along with. The atmosphere was electric, with encouragement from bands and crowds along the route. I was amazed that this excitement never dipped – the locals appeared to have a never ending amount of energy. On the other hand I struggled as it got hotter and hotter and the two “hills” (I would describe them as mountains) nearly finished me off. The encouragement from my running buddies (a special thanks to Michelle and Lauren), the other race participants and the excitement in the air, pushed me over the finishing line in what I would call an impressive 1 hour and 20 minutes.
While the altitude, the heat and the distance may seem intimidating, many of the participants walked the course and everybody crossed the finish line in one piece. The winner crossed the finish line in just 28 minutes and 55 seconds. Unfortunately, he was not one of the ORBIS runners, but our very own Cathal O’Sullivan and John Cooney managed to finish in an impressive time of 45 minutes. Others in our group showed off by stopping to go to the bathroom and still finished in under an hour.
The trip was a huge success, not only raising vital funds for ORBIS, but also an opportunity to view some of the vital work of ORBIS Ethiopia at the Menelik II Hospital in Addis Ababa and in the rural areas of Gamo Gofa.
In 2009 we hope to bring 100 people to Addis Ababa to share this amazing experience and raise even more funds for ORBIS!
Diane Weatherup - Development Manager, ORBIS Ireland
ORBIS Ireland runners pose for the camera after crossing the finish line in Addis Ababa