Portland, Oregon – Ethiopia is well-known for its world-class runners, but a devastating civil war has left most Ethiopians too poor to afford shoes. So, Berhanu Tessema and Andrew Buswell started The Ethiopia Project in 2007 with a mission to collect gently-worn footwear, clean and sort them, and donate them to Run Clubs in Addis Ababa, Gondar, Bahar Dar, and the surrounding regions in Ethiopia.

The men will talk about their Portland-based nonprofit and what you can do to help at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Lake Oswego Library, 706 Fourth St.

Collection bins also will be available from Feb. 1-28 at Graham’s Book and Stationery Store at 460 Second St., Lakeridge High School at 1235 Southwest Overlook Drive, and Lake Oswego High School at 2500 Country Club Road.

About Ethiopia Project

Ethiopia has a great tradition of producing the best runners in the world. In the 1960 Olympics, Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the gold medal in the marathon event running bare foot. Ever since Abebe’s victory, a number of best runners have been breaking world records at every level notably the 10K and the Marathon events. The new marathon world record was set just last year by Haile Gebreslasse at 2:04:26 which is an unbelievable 4:45 per mile pace.

However, most elite Ethiopian runners have a modest beginning. Running bare foot when they were children in the country side is common. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world due to a devastating civil war lasting over 30 years among others. Having a pair of shoes let alone a pair of running shoes is a luxury for most. The potential elite runners are training in a better condition under the many clubs organized to recruit potential champions. There are many runners that have the potential to be the best in the world practicing their running with shoes in a very poor condition if they have shoe at all.

On the other hand, serious American runners have the privilege to change running shoe every 3-5 months or 400-500 miles of running. A lot of usable running shoe can be found occupying considerable garage space in every house hold. There are no recycling programs in the NW to use these running shoes except the Nike program which collect unusable shoes, grind them, and use them to make running tracks in schools around the country. The Ethiopia Project strives to fill this gap by collecting new and usable running shoes in America and fit them to the needy runners in Ethiopia. The Ethiopia Project (EP) aims to assist these Ethiopian runners to be the best they can be.

It is all started when Berhanu and family traveled to Ethiopia in the summer of 2006. Berhanu was practicing for the Portland Marathon at the time. On his morning runs in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, he encountered so many young runners at a large public square called Meskel Square, sprinting without a decent running shoe. On February 4th 2007, back in Portland, a conversation with Andrew Buswell of Fit Right Northwest about this experience and running shoe recycling programs sparked the idea of helping needy runners. This is how the Ethiopia Project was born. It will be a great pleasure to help bring the best out of those needy runners in Ethiopia.

For more information, please visit the website: www.ethiopiaproject.com

Source: The Oregonian and The Ethiopia Project