Blog submitted by Charlotte Coleman-Smith
Charlotte Coleman-Smith is one of the 30,000 people who took part in Africa’s biggest road race –The Great Ethiopian Run, a challenging 10km at 10,000 feet above sea level. She is part of the ORBIS Ireland team who took on this massive challenge in November. Charlotte shares with us her feelings after the race.
It's now a week since I arrived back from Addis. Last night, I was out with friends who were asking me about the Run. Above the noise of a busy restaurant, I found myself summing up the incredible trip. There were so many different threads to it that I struggled to weave them together into a coherent whole. In fact, each time I’m asked, I seem to come up with a new pattern, which is surely a reflection of the complexity of feeling that comes out of such an experience.
First, of course, I tell them that it was brilliant, and one of the best things I’ve done. Then, to explain the hoarseness of my voice, I get sidetracked into discussing the intensity of the schedule and the packed programme we followed from the moment we landed. I might tell them about the traditional meal on the first night; watching the great Haile Gebrselassie dance the night before the Run; the Irish ambassador’s reception up in the hills; the final late night of clubbing in Addis and the two-hour sleep which came before the flight home. I’ll describe the great craic we all had as a group, and in our own little sub-sets (apparently, we were the ‘Yummy Mummies’. I like that).
But most of all, I want to get across to my friends the warmth of the welcome we found in Ethiopia, how worthwhile all of the training and fundraising felt as soon as we were touring the hospital and hearing from those who work in the field about the way the ORBIS money is spent. We were in Ethiopia for a very brief time, yet it was long enough to get a sense that this is an incredibly varied country, which is so much more than the sum of all the news stories of the past few decades.
There’s incredible poverty and hardship – we saw this on every roadside, and particularly on the outskirts of Addis Ababa - but also a growing middle class, an economy that’s getting ever stronger, and a confidence and pride that shines out. This was very clear to me during the Run, as groups of friends, families and colleagues came together to celebrate the national sport, and simply to enjoy being who they are.
We, of course, were lucky enough to have a lot of fun while doing our bit for charity. This was, after all, predominantly an Irish group. Perhaps some might take issue with that. But in order to become ambassadors for ORBIS, I reckon it’s better for the participants to come home with a positive feeling about the country and people they are trying to help.
I would love to return and see more; perhaps travel south to the ORBIS projects. But even if I don’t, the trip to Addis Ababa of November 2011 will give me material for stories for a very long time. Perhaps these stories might persuade others to do their bit for ORBIS in years to come – if only so they can beat me at my own game!