So, why do I run? I just do. I like it. It's good for my soul. It's a break from the kids and time to think. 5 years ago I ran the OBX (Outer Banks, NC) marathon-- 26 miles, 26 years old, on the 16th anniversary of my mom's death. I ran that race for myself and for my mom. I remember reading once that daughters who have lost their mothers will often drive themselves to do/finish things their mothers never had the chance to do- like run a marathon.
What am I running for this time? I'm running for the amazing women of Ethiopia. In our Lonely Planet travel guide I had read about the women who collect firewood to make a living. These women travel miles just to reach the bottom of a mountain that they climb daily to gather the sticks of Eucalyptus trees. They climb, climb, climb 4,000 feet in elevation up Entoto mountain and tie the sticks in bundles and carry them on their backs. Then they travel back down the mountain with 100# of firewood on their backs that they sell in Addis for about 50 cents a day. Can you imagine walking a marathon daily with 100# of scratchy wood on your back? How about in unsafe conditions? They do this even in the rainy season dealing with mudslides, slippery road, etc. They risk confrontations with guards. They try to work in groups because rape is common. They do it to survive.
Our last day in Ethiopia I asked our driver to take me to the mountain so I could meet some of these women, pray with them, and give them money. I talked to four women:
Meet Tsaiganesh. While she was friendly, she wasn't overly-interested in talking with me. Why would she be? Surely she was eager to get down the mountain, get the load off her back, and sell that wood. I gave her money, which she was extremely grateful for, but I learned my lesson to talk with the women resting.
Meet Asnagish. She had no husband, which more than likely means he died or left her. She wouldn't smile at me at first. What was a white woman in a van going to do for her? I shared with her that Jesus carried a heavy cross of wood on his back willingly for her. She warmed up to me and we chatted briefly, prayed together, and I asked her if I could feel what her load felt like? She smiled immediately, strapped the wood on my back and I stood up and took 3 excruciating steps and felt the tears come feeling what she had to do daily. I knew right then I was running this race for her. I thanked her for her time, got in the van, and let myself cry a bit.
Meet Abobonich. Her name means flower. She was a beautiful lady and a widow. She was old and tired and proud of her beauty. She wanted to fix her head covering before our picture together.
Meet Aragush. She, too, was a widow. When I saw her sitting alone on a hill her hands we caked with dirt & grime. Her fingers were nubby, and I'm guessing she had leprousy. I tried to hold her hands, but she was full of shame and pulled them away. She told me she was never able to have kids, which makes for a very lonely outcast. Yet in her heartache, she continually spoke blessings over me, "May you live a long time. Take me home with you. I'll clean for you. I'm tired." She let me rub her back and snuggle next to her, but always hid her hands from me.
I said goodbye and went back to our guesthouse and Ry, Solomon and I got ready for our flight home that night. I knew I wanted to run for these women. We long to help them, but how? Our immediate response was to buy a $75 donkey for these ladies so they wouldn't have to carry the load themselves. But, they would have to care for that donkey and theft is an issue. I'm still kicking myself for the "why didn't I"... carry the load down the mountain for those ladies (not sure if I could have physically) or at least thrown the sticks on the van, paid them for the wood, and given them a ride home. It's one thing to give someone money, but it's another thing to carry someone's burden for them.
You can read more here.
So, on Sunday I will run my 26 miles for Tsaiganesh, Asnagish, Abobonich, & Aragush & the other strong firewood carriers of Addis. While I didn't do any fund-raising, below are two reputable organizations where any amount you give would help the beautiful people of Ethiopia:
Christian World Foundation