Operation Transformation star and renowned fundraiser Ronan Scully is undertaking the Great Ethiopian Run this November, and is looking for volunteers to join him. Scully has already signed up close to a dozen participants to run with him on the annual event, a 10km walking and running challenge through the heart of Addis Ababa on November 27.
A handful of places are still left on the expedition, and Mr Scully is on the lookout for any Galway participants who would like to join them. To take part, competitors are asked to raise at least €3,000 in sponsorship support – which will cover all costs of a trip that will also include tours of the city and a short field trip to see Self Help Africa’s work in rural Ethiopia.
With his role as a fundraiser for Self Help Africa, he understands better than most the challenges faced by families all around Africa: “Since I started working with Self Help Africa the entire focus has been on food – and particularly how it can be grown in difficult conditions and tough climates in the developing world. I may have had my own struggles with food in the past, but the weight loss challenges that I faced on Operation Transformation are absolutely nothing to the ordeal that millions of Africans face in putting enough food on the table and providing for their families, simply to survive.
“These issues have come into sharp focus with the famine and drought in East Africa at present, but at Self Help Africa we are continuing to say that while we must respond to the emergency, we can only help to bring an end to these terrible stories if we provide people with the wherewithal to live a life free from hunger and poverty. At Self Help Africa we are doing that by providing farming communities with good quality seed, by supporting the development of irrigation, and by a whole host of other measures that can give people some protection from the kinds of problems they are facing in parts of East Africa today”.
For Ronan, the plight of the people of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia is particularly troubling. An adoptive father of two little girls from Ethiopia, he says that it has been particularly tough to watch the pictures of the famine on the news bulletins, or explain to four-year-old Mia what is happening in the country of her birth:
“It’s hard to explain to a four-year-old that there are people dying of hunger in the world, and particularly so when we know that this is not a disease they are suffering, but a situation that can be cured very easily.”
Self Help Africa has been working in Ethiopia for more than 25 years, and has supported more than one million of its people to increase the amount of food that they produce, and increase the amount that they earn from farming in that time. Scully says that the reason for Self Help Africa to focus on farming is simple, too – pointing to the fact that 80 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa live on small farms, and to studies that show that the vast majority of these farms have the potential for greater productivity.
“As the name suggests, Self Help believes that the solution to one of the biggest challenges faced by Africa is in the hands of the people themselves. Provide African farmers with better access to seeds, with training and with the knowledge that will make them better farmers and you will solve a problem that we have been wrestling with for the best part of half a century.”