Wukro Devon Running Project
Imagine training for two hours on a stony, pot-holed cinder track, starting in the darkness before dawn, running in plastic sandals, then off to school with no water, no breakfast, and no showers. That is the reality for many aspiring runners in Ethiopia. Thanks to the WukroDevon running project Berihu has running kit, a stop watch, and breakfast after training, he has also been given the opportunity to come and spend the summer in the UK and try some races and training here. He has already trained on three different all weather tracks; Ethiopia has one such track in the entire country. So far he has set a course record in winning the Hay Tor Heller, a course record for the north Devon relaysí Barnstaple course and the fastest time this year in the Bideford Handicap (despite adding a little extra due to navigational difficulties).
Berihu Tesfay comes from Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, he has just finished his second year at Aksum University as a Sports Science student. He is an excellent student and runner making the most of limited opportunities. Together with Cathy Newman he has set up a project to help runners from his home town of Wukro; they have received sponsorship from Cathy and Pete Newman, Ironbridge Runner and Exmouth Harriers. The project provides running kit for the athletes, three meals a week (after key training sessions) and expenses for races. The athletes also receive help for their education: so far the project has paid for notebooks, pens and lessons for the participants.
We hope to be able to take more shoes, running tights and spikes back to Ethiopia in September. Anyone wishing to help by donating money or running kit should contact Cathy or leave new or nearly new kit at Ironbridge Runner in Exeter. Cathy will pay the transportation costs but as this is high it is better to take kit that will last a long time rather than kit that is worn.
Cathy says "Coming back from Ethiopia makes me increasingly more aware of how much we all have here, instead of plastic sandals and shared running kit most runners have a range of shoes and kit, stop watches, even iPods; there are more runners with a GPS here than runners with a basic stop watch in Ethiopia!"
Cathy Newman is working for the charity Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) as an English trainer in Ethiopia. She met Berihu at Aksum University when she interviewed him, following his gold medal win in the national universities championships, for the University magazine. Cathy worked for two years at Aksum University and will be returning to the south west of Ethiopia (near the south Sudan border) to take up a new post with the Regional Education Office in September. Her husband Pete is an ex-fire-fighter and a photographer. Photos of Ethiopia can be seen on his website. The famine in the south of the country, Somalia and Kenya has made the news but in Ethiopia poor nutrition and malnutrition are never absent. Through helping a group of athletes we want to help more people and help them to help themselves that is why we encourage teamwork, mutual support and education.
Cathy: email@example.com 07798562227
About The Wukro Devon Running Project
The Wukro Devon running project was started to help athletes in a poor rural area in northern Ethiopia. Wukro has a population of 35 000 and is at an altitude of 2000m. It is in the centre of many famous ancient rock hewn churches and is therefore an important tourist destination and religious centre. The project supports 15 athletes providing food and clothing, travel expenses and coaching support. Team members are encouraged to stay in school and help each other to develop their running whilst working towards financial independence. This is a region where the vast majority of people are subsistence farmers living on less than £1 a day. Runners rarely have shoes, athletics clothing or adequate diets. Runners have to work as well as attend school and train. Most work is farming or other manual labour.
A coach was appointed, Gebremedhin, the sports teacher at the secondary school, and he selected the team members. He leads three training sessions each week, selects athletes for races and administers time trails to check on progress. Athletes continue to be supported through illness or injury. Race opportunities are scarce and consequentially highly valued. The team made its first appearance in a regional competition in Adigrat (a northern Ethiopian town). The competition culminated in a clean sweep of the medals for the 800m and one athlete, Abraham, achieving gold medals in both the 5000m and 10 000m. Subsequently Abraham was invited to join the team of a local leather factory, Sheba.
The next major competition will be the regional championships in February 2011. The project was set up by Cathy Newman, winner of many Devon races including the Great West Run, the Grizzly, the Last Chance 10k, and the Bicton Blister, and Berihu Tesfay, a Sports Science student at Aksum University. Berihu has won several National Junior Gold medals at 800m and it is hoped that he will come and race in Devon in the summer of 2011. Berihu has been invited to join full-time athletics camps in Addis Ababa but he has turned these opportunities down in order to complete his university education and to help his mother (he is her only child) who is unable to work.
Perhaps the Devon Wukro running project will be able to find an athlete like
Gebregzabher Gebremariam, winner of the New York Marathon, who comes
from Sinkata, a town very close to Wukro. The athletes have huge potential, but they need funding to help them realize this
The project has received highly valued support from Ironbridge Runner and Exmouth Harriers. Pictures of the team can be viewed at www.peternewman.co.uk
Victory in debut performance
Kibrom Gebreher in his debut performance for the Devon-Wukro Running Project won the Aksum 5k race on Sunday 9 January 2011. The race started with one lap of the stadium before heading out along the main street where there was excellent support from local residents and tourists. Participants from Wukro, Maichow, Aksum town and Aksum University took part in the strongly contested competition. Kibrom took the lead in the final kilometre of the race to finish with a convincing lead for the final 600m on the athletics track. He received a T-shirt (donated by Exmouth Harriers) and 500 birr prize money. Several athletes from the Devon Wukro running project will compete in the regional championships in February.