17 February 2020

Tesfa Ethiopian Running Charity

July 13, 2008

The Tesfa Foundation was established to provide an education to underprivileged children in Ethiopia and is now expanding to provide teenage girls a chance of a better life through its newly established Running team.

In Ethiopia running is a national sport in the same way that football is in the UK. International athletes such as Paula Radcliffe are revered and many youngsters dream of becoming a top runner themselves.

However according to Dana Roskey, Executive Director of the Tesfa foundation, the main difference between the UK and Ethiopia is that becoming a top runner in Ethiopia can literally mean the difference between a decent life and barely surviving.

A keen runner himself, Roskey is the first foreigner to set up a professional running team in Ethiopia. But unlike the 40 or so others, the purpose of the Tesfa team is two-fold; It functions as a competitive club with a paid coach and around 20 team members who compete in cross country and track events. But the main motivation of the club is to give disadvantaged teenage girls a better life through running.

This is the only programme of its kind in Ethiopia as no one is addressing the needs of teenage girls who want to run. Currently they have four girls in the scheme and are aiming towards providing the opportunity for eight girls a year.

To better understand the importance of this charity, it is essential to understand the culture of running in Ethiopia. These girls are already keen runners and often they have come to Addis Ababa from the country to run for a team, but the reality is that they are taking a considerable risk.

The typical girl, often as young as 12, grew up in the country and has migrated to the city on their own to live with extended family. According to Roskey, at this point they often either end up being a virtual slave to that family (this is the better scenario); or they end up living on their own, either because their carer dies or they get kicked out. Then they have to find a job and somewhere to live, which can often lead to a dangerous and abusive situation.

Tesfa have first hand knowledge of this; they were approached by two girls aged 15 and 16, who were living in a tiny room, working as waitresses in a shady part of town and not bothering with school but trying to fit in some training in worn-out shoes.

A disturbing percentage of girls living in this way are attacked or raped by their employers or men who follow them after work. At this point the future is bleak and the chances of them fulfilling their running dreams are virtually non-existant.

Roskey wanted to give them the opportunity to run, but also to use running as a way to get them out of this terrible situation To give them somewhere safe to live and get them an education. And so the Tesfa running team was set-up.

The Programme

with-coach.pngThe programme includes a supervised home life including safe accommodation (if needed) and small salary for running in the team as well as healthcare, professional training and an education.

Many girls only have the equivalent of a nursery education, and so Tesfa employs a tutor. They also get integrated HIV counselling, social counselling and as part of the programme they must also get involved in community and vocational projects and work with the younger children at the Tesfa schools.

And of course they get to run and receive coaching (seen here with their Coach). They train each day, sometimes with the team and sometimes just together, and this new regime is starting to pay off with a couple of the girls showing promise.

However the main point is to give these girls a better life through running rather than to make them into Olympic Champions.

Roskey is working hard at building partnerships and associations with overseas groups and currently www.girlsgottarun.org are raising money to pay for shoes and kit, as well as a small coaching salary.

And they hope to bring in the help of some of the international stars like Meseret Defar (seen with the girls at the top). As well as some more expertise, because runners in Ethiopia often get injured due to obsessive overtraining.

The Future

Looking to the future Roskey has big plans. Ultimately he would like to create a fee paying high school with an athletics specialism that the wealthy families would send their children to. That would in turn give them the opportunity to develop facilities for all children to use. He also hopes to be able to offer a scholarship to people that want to train to become a teacher within this scheme.

Another plan is to set up training camps for foreigners, which would involve training in the mountains with some of Ethiopias top runners and in return visitors would get involved with the schools and help out on small projects.

Currently though the priority is to get the girls scheme established and running well, so if you or your team would like to get involved please email Dan Roskey at: jarvismundi@fastmail.fm

Danielle Sellwood, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Read about the Tesfa Schools Charity:

UK Site : www.tesfa-uk.org

US Site: www.tesfa.org

Read related reports on Sportsister:

Cathy Freeman Foundation

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