Help students succeed through running

by Marian Haley Beil (Deber Berhan 62–64)

Tony and Erin Portillo began serving in Debre Berhan in 2011 as health Volunteers. During my visit to DB in September I had the opportunity to meet and have a delightful visit with them, and I mentioned that should they need help on a project they should contact me. And they have!

The Portillos live in the small agricultural community of Zanjera on the outskirt of DB, and they are working with several community leaders to build a running track  — a simple, 400-meter oval — for youth of the area on grounds donated by the kebele leader, Ato Lema, for this purpose, and he has provided a signed letter of promise that he will maintain the upkeep of the track and set aside future kebele funds for that purpose. Zanjera provides little hope for the future of the young people who live there, and it has been shown that organized sports increase self-esteem and development in youth, and improve decision-making in girls (a special target group for this project). In Ethiopia, if students show promise as a runner, it can also increase their likelihood of sustained school enrollment.

The Protillo’s project is seeking funding assistance for construction costs for materials, and renting of digging and pressing equipment for the track. The goal is to raise an additional $4,700.

Recently the project was approved by the Peace Corps to be a Peace Corps Partnership Project that provides  a link for fundraising. Click on Local Track Project to read the Partnership post, and to make an online donation if you would like to help out these PCVs — and the students of Zanjera.

I also recommend that you read a terrific article that Erin wrote for the El Paso Times entitled Outrunning the Odds: Las Crucens Work in Ethiopia for change about the project, the community and Ethiopia.

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