|SIMIEN GIRL RUNNERS| The Simien Girl Runners team was formed in the Spring of 2008. Working with local schools and coaches in the Simien Mountains region in northern Ethiopia, Mr. Fantu Gola and his partners, who own and operate the Simien Lodge, an eco-lodge in this very remote and impoverished area, oversaw the organization and development of the team. Ten girls were chosen from the hundreds who competed; team membership was based on not only athletic ability and promise, but also scholarship. As part of their team membership, all athletes committed to staying in school and completing their high school education.
The athletes attended school on a daily basis, helped their families with chores, and trained at least 3 to 4 times a week together, before and after school. The scholarships made available by Girls Gotta Run provided the athletes with training gear, food, coaching and access to local and national competitions. With the support of the Open Meadows Foundation, Girls Gotta Run was able to provide transportation and cover the entrance expenses for the Simien Girl Runners to compete in the Great Ethiopian Run in Addis Ababa in November 2010. Four of the girls were entered in the professional race and placed well in their division.
As of winter 2011, all ten girls had graduated from high school. LemLem Mulat was in her second year of college at University of Arbaminch in the Department of Engineering. Almaz was working full time at the Simien Lodge, two athletes had graduated vocational school and the others were on track to graduate vocational school in the spring of 2012.
Partly as a result of the success of the Simien Girl Runners team, an Ethiopian businessman came forward in the winter of 2011 to invest in the creation of a co-ed running club/team in Debark for 30 runners. The Ethiopian government also dedicated funds to support 30 runners in the Simien Mountains as well, through the local Sport and Youth Office of Debark. Three of the Simien Girl Runners were chosen to be a part of the new club, the Altimate Plan Athletics Club, and five of the girls were chosen to be included in the group of 30 being supported by the Sport and Youth Office.
The development of the Simien Girls Running team is an example of the success Girls Gotta Run Foundation has had in working closely with local individuals to create long term sustainable relationships and programs for women runners in Ethiopia. Girls Gotta Run Foundation continues to support the team on an informal basis and looks forward to celebrating the team’s future accomplishments.