ETHIOPIA: Olympic athlete visits street children
Don Bosco Center hosts Olympic athlete Fiona May to highlight importance of sports programming
(MissionNewswire) Olympic athlete Fiona May, a retired long jumper who won two Olympic silver medals and competed for the United Kingdom and later Italy, recently spent time in Ethiopia. She took a trip to the neighborhood of Mekanissa, located in Addis Ababa, and visited the Don Bosco Center, which is home to more than 400 street children.
May, who is also an envoy to the Tokyo 2020-2021 Olympic Games, spoke to Salesian Father Angelo Regazzo at the Don Bosco Center and played with dozens of youth. She taught them the basics of the long jump and watched youth take part in sports and activities. Sports for May “means challenging oneself and respecting others, it means commitment and determination, having team spirit, ability to relate and manage defeat.”
Don Bosco Center provides education, nutrition and health services to poor youth. Most of the youth, ages 2-15, are street children who have no place else to live or anyone to take care of them. The Don Bosco Center also offers a small medical dispensary, which is managed by a nurse. Youth receive first aid, routine health check-ups and medicine when needed. Youth are able to take a hot shower, and hygiene and sanitary supplies are available. The center also has a sports program.
“Sports programs teach youth both on and off the field,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Learning and playing team sports encourage leadership skills as well as teach youth to work as part of a team. Students also learn important social skills and have opportunities for growth and maturity.”
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 27 percent of its population living in poverty, according to Feed the Future. Close to 85 percent of the country’s workforce is employed in agriculture but frequent droughts severely affect the agricultural economy leaving more than 12 million people chronically, or at least periodically, food insecure. In addition, more than two-thirds of the population is illiterate.
Ethiopia has 4 million orphans which account for nearly 12 percent of all children and according to UNICEF, more than half a million of these were orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis that has affected the country. Thousands more children run away each year seeking a better life on the streets.
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Salesian Missions – Ethiopia
UNICEF – Ethiopia