June 19, 2016
The Ethiopian community mutual assistant association (ECMAA) is a registered, not-profit organization. One of its missions is to host events that will promote educational and cultural program in the community. This year, the Association took the initiative to encourage the Ethiopian community in the metropolitan New York City (NYC) to participate in walkathon and bring awareness to the problem and support autism center that provides much needed service to children, adolescents and youth with autism in Ethiopia.
ECMAA launched the “walk for autism” theme on its own website for people to donate and register on line. It also linked its website to the wider Facebook community. The response was good. Over the last few weeks as our community heard about this event, many have shared their thoughts about it and offered heartfelt advice.
The event took place on Saturday, June 18, 2016. Ms. Makda Amare board member of ECMAA delivered the welcoming remark. She highlighted the mission of ECMAA. She stated that over its 35 years of existence ECMAA has provided service to Ethiopian community in New York metropolitan area and supported a worthwhile causes back home. She outlined the day’s program, and thanked the crowd for taking the time from their busy schedules to join us for this event.
Then the 5K stretch walk started and was completed at Marcus Garevy/Mt. Morris Park in Harlem. The walkathon was a huge success drawing a large number of Ethiopians from New York tristate area. It was nice to see that many people come out to support this great cause. At the end of the event it was announced to the participants that the pledge income forecast shows at least $3000 was raised. The proceeding goes to NIA foundation in Ethiopia. NIA is one of its kind in East Africa probably the only one in Ethiopia that provides education advocacy, therapy and life skill training to autistic children and their families.
The event brought our community together, created unforgettable experience and memories in the minds of those who participated. People of all ages, from all walks of life participated in this worthwhile event creating autism awareness and fundraising initiatives. We hope all Ethiopians and friend of Ethiopians in several cities across America will organize similar events. ECMAA will continue to support any NGOs that is committed to educate, advocate and provide therapy, resources and support to the autistic children and their families.
Ethiopia is a country with a population of over 90 million. As we all know, the most common illness in Ethiopia is communicable diseases, not autism. Due to Lack of information, awareness, a shortage of health facilities, lack of educational program and cultural myth autism is unrecognized phenomena in Ethiopian society. Even though facts and statistics as to how many children are affected by this disability in Ethiopia is not readily known, from the anecdote information available, it is estimated to be in thousand. It is overwhelming to the parents who care for the children with autism. When families discovered their son or daughter has this disability they do not know how to manage it. There is no readily available service to go to. They might also be afraid to go out with their autistic child fearing that the child might hurt himself/herself or he/she might hurt someone unexpectedly. ECMAA believes organizing a walkathon for Autism to raise money and awareness is one of the ways that we can empower these parents and support the organization working on this issue. We have to bring autism out of the closet. It is time to wake up, remove the stigma and myth about this disability and ensure our society provide full support to the families who have children with autism and organizations that support them.
THANK YOU to everyone who came out to support this very important cause.
June 19, 2016