She had run the same road a thousand times. The dust had been about her feet for a life time. Her speed was fast. Really fast. Banchi could outpace any American athlete her age. Banchi's running had allowed her to get ahead in her culture.
I met Banchi when I travelled to Woserbi, Ethiopia - a small community outside the capital city of Adddis Abbaba. I went to work with a female empowerment organization called Yaya Girls. The program was designed to give young girls the skills required to be successful in their life after primary school studies while allowing them to compete in structured athletics.
While working with Yaya, I was able to immerse myself in the community in which I lived. I was particularly fond of the food and became a regular at a local coffee hot which would have a lunch special. While eating here I was able to meet several people who invited me to partake in different experiences around the region and across the country. My goal was to live as close to the local life as possible and I really appreciated being accepted in the community.
My time with the organization was difficult because of the red tape that can exist with social responsibility program. This seemed to affect everything. Even in sport. But I learned a great deal about the Ethiopian business rules and regulations and how to go about working in Ethiopia.
As a foreigner, I was afforded many luxuries not available to the local people who couldn’t run. There was always a stark difference between the athletes like Banchi and visitors and others.
I felt quite guilty about that but at the same time, the number one luxury I received was the caring and openness of those whom surrounded me in the town. I was never without a Sunday dinner or not invited to a coffee celebration. The lesson for me was clear, no matter your social status, or how its afforded to you (be based on your running or country of origin), always welcome.
While I learned much on my 4 month trip, that was indeed the most profound take home: think the kindness and interconnectedness of humans around the world.
Trevor Walmsley is a registered nurse, entrepreneur, and former banker. He received his BScN and graduate diploma in business from Queen's University, where he also ran coached cross country.