Ethiopia 2023

In November 2023, a group of 66 people travelled to Addis Ababa with Orbis Ireland to participate in the Great Ethiopian Run. Additionally, they took the opportunity to visit the Orbis Ireland projects in southern Ethiopia.

Through the Streets of Addis Ababa

This was Orbis Ireland’s 13th visit to take part in the Run, and since 2008, Orbis has taken approx. 500 people to Ethiopia and raised over €1,000,000.

After months of training and fundraising, the day finally arrived for the team to depart for Ethiopia. Nerves were high as the groups from AerCap, Airbus, AvAir, Avolon, CDB Aviation, Falko, PwC, and SES gathered at the airport. However, as those returning relayed their stories from previous trips, the nerves soon turned to excitement.

The weekend in Addis Ababa was packed with activities, from visiting museums and parks to sampling Ethiopian culture. On Friday evening, we were treated to live music and had the chance to taste the traditional cuisine at Checheho Restaurant. On early Saturday morning, we had the privilege to participate in an elite training session at Entoto Mountain - at an altitude of over 3000 metres. The session was conducted by a group of elite runners. Later in the afternoon, we visited Ethiopia's National Museum and got to see Lucy, the most famous early human ancestor who was found approximately 3.2 million years ago.

Great Ethiopian Run

Finally, the morning of the Great Ethiopian Run arrived, and nerves, excitement and infectious enthusiasm filled the hotel as we set off for the start line. The Great Ethiopian Run attracts 40,000+ people who “pound” through the streets of this vast city. It is a city of potholes and bottle-necks. It is a city of steep, curving hills. It is the highest capital city in Africa at around 2,500m above sea level, and it is hot.

Although our fastest runner (Connor Shorten) completed the race in under 50 minutes, he couldn’t catch he was unable to catch 18-year old Binyam Mehari who crossed the finish line first with a time of 28:18. Meanwhile, in the women's division, Melknat Wudu claimed the top spot with a time of 32:27.

After the run, we celebrated and rested before Nicola Brennan, Ireland’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Djibouti, and her family, warmly welcomed us at their residence.

The Work of Orbis

After an action-packed weekend, it was time to say goodbye for a few. They headed home with full hearts and compelling stories while the remaining group travelled 500km south to Arba Minch. Although the group had initially travelled to Ethiopia to participate in the run, the second part of the trip, the visit to the Orbis projects, was truly humbling, eye-opening and, for many, the highlight.

From the moment we landed in Arba Minch, it was a treat for the senses, even though some of the luggage was left behind in Addis Ababa.

On the day of the project visits, the group split into five groups, and we were invited to primary schools in Arba Minch, Bonke, Chencha, Dita, and Gacho to see the school eye clubs set up by Orbis. As the gates to the school opened, we were overwhelmed by the sound of singing. Hundreds of school children lined up to welcome us with beautiful songs and impressive dance moves. Grandstand Sports (Dun Laoghaire) had kindly donated footballs, volleyballs and pumps to each school. So, we all enjoyed a few games with the kids and teachers.

Orbis is a well-known charity in these parts due to the widespread eye care activities across this region of 3.6 million people. Throughout the day, we met several people eager to tell us about the treatment they received or their loved ones and how it changed their lives.

After learning about ways to eliminate and stop the spread of eye disease through a selection of songs, plays and dances, we met with teachers and health officials who screened children for refractive error. It is impressive to witness how something so straightforward, such as providing glasses, can change the world for a child. They can finally see the blackboard and play with their friends.

The visit to the local health centre was the most striking part. Here the group met with Orbis-trained Integrated Eyecare Workers. And also had the opportunity to meet with patients suffering from TT, just before their surgery. It is an indescribable, heart warming feeling being able to talk to the patients and to hear their individual stories.

We also witnessed the simple surgery which reverses the effects of trachoma by stopping the eyelids from turning in and scratching the cornea. This experience really is not for the feint hearted, as the health centres and operating rooms are very basic - yet they are very effective.

More Information

Donate today and help save sight

Close the modal
Sorry there was an error.
Try again