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Running to make a change for older people in Ethiopia

19 May 2015

The runners and the older people they met at Hospice Ethiopia. (c) Erna Mentesnot Hintz/HelpAge InternationalWith help from HelpAge International in Ethiopia, HelpAge Germany is sponsoring two young Ethiopian athletes who are joining its public fundraising efforts.

Athlete Chalachew Asmamaw Tiruneh is not new to HelpAge or our cause of supporting older men and women.

In September 2014, he took part in the Muenster Marathon on behalf of HelpAge Germany under the banner "Jede Oma zaehlt" (every grandma counts). He secured seventh place, putting HelpAge Germany in the top ten for the first time.

In the same marathon, athlete Yenealem Ayano Buli competed privately, coming in first place. Yenealem said: "I was impressed by HelpAge Germany's cause when Chalachew told me about it at the start line. I felt a deep need to become a supporter of older people."

Representing older men and women

Now, Chalachew and Yenealem are training to represent older women and men at the Berlin Marathon in September this year.

In an effort to give them a better understanding of what they are raising funds for, the athletes met two older people being supported by Hospice Ethiopia. This HelpAge partner offers free palliative and end of life care for patients with cancer and HIV and AIDS in Addis Ababa.

It is the only palliative care organisation in the country. Since 2003 and with limited resources, Hospice Ethiopia has provided care for 1,500 patients. Chalachew and Yenealem got the chance to meet two of the older people who have benefitted from their unique services.

Hospice makes my life worthwhile

Yezabnesh is 67: "I don't have any children. I have no relatives who support me, especially since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a mastectomy four years ago. To this day, I suffer from the effects of the cancer.

"I had no one by my side until Hospice came to the rescue. Hospice ensures I eat, drink and get healthcare. My rent and transport costs are paid and I also have a place to spend my day and socialise with my peers.

"If it wasn't for Hospice my life would be suffering on the streets and dying a slow painful death. Hospice helps me fulfill my basic needs; be it hot meals or shelter. Hospice makes my life worthwhile."

My life has changed for the better

Azezew is 57: "I am HIV positive. I became infected ten years ago. I have no relatives to support me. My life was very hard. I had given up.

"Since I joined Hospice, my life has changed for the better. I feel supported and my will to go on has been revived. I go to the centre and I can forget everything and leave the stigma and the discrimination I face outside the compound. Hospice gives me hope."

Both athletes were deeply touched by Yezabnesh and Azezew's stories and the support HelpAge's partner has been providing.

Chalachew said: "We will run for you to raise awareness and funds to sustain and strengthen the work of HelpAge and its partners. This is unique support for older people. It is deserved and must be supported."

On 27 September 2015, Chalachew and Yenealem will participate in the BMW Berlin Marathon aiming to raise funds for local organisations to support the wellbeing of older people.

HelpAge International's team in Ethiopia wishes them both the best of luck!

Sponsor Yenealem and Chalachew on their marathon run

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Author profile

Erna Mentesnot Hintz
Country: Ethiopia
Job title: Communications Officer

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.