I raised funds for this organization in 2010 and have been staying connected over the years. It is a unique non profit that directly gets resources to girls that are interested in running as a way to support themselves now and into the future. There are success stories from this program and the board members and leaders are dedicated to the cause. Pat - the founder is passionate and started this project from the ground up.
I became involved with GGRF in 2008 after spending a summer training with a group of DC based Ethiopian runners. After experiencing their kindness and generosity and hearing stories about Ethiopia, I knew that I wanted to give back. When I heard about Girls Gotta Run Foundation later that summer, I knew that it was the perfect non-profit to volunteer for. While I was inspired by the Ethiopian runners, I was also inspired by Pat Ortman, the foundation's president, and her willingness to help out a group of girls whom she had never met in person. I liked that the foundation was run exclusively by volunteers and that the cause was both well conceived and executed. During my past two years with GGRF, the non-profit has expanded and now aids three teams of girls and several athletes on a team called Running Across Borders. The foundation has also received media attention recently, which has helped to bring the plight of the girls in Ethiopia closer to home. Another recent development has been that three of the original four athletes have started their own foundations to give back to other girls in Ethiopia - and these girls are still in the GGRF program themselves! In essence, GGRF's women's empowerment efforts have empowered and inspired these girls to help empower other girls. In one word, this is inspiring!
For several years now, GGRF has helped us at the Tesfa Foundation (www.tesfa.org) to fund a program called Team Tesfa. Team Tesfa is a professional track and cross country team in Addis Ababa, within which the Tesfa Foundation operates programs to support teenage girl athletes who are at risk, providing them with safe housing, education, and vocational skills. GGRF has been a reliable and professional and thoughtful partner. They fund athletic gear for the girls and women on our team, as well as some transportation, coaching, and nutrition costs. GGRF has made a significant difference in these women's lives, and helped the Team Tesfa program to get off the ground and expand its services to more women in need.
As one who is passionate about running as well as programs that empower girls and women in developing countries, I fell in love with Girls Gotta Run from the moment I heard Pat Ortman speak about the organization. Pat is a retired women’s studies professor who now spends her days working tirelessly to give some of the most vulnerable, yet determined girls in Ethiopia the chance to better their own lives, and in turn, the lives of their entire families and communities. Pat is a dynamo leader who is constantly working to engage energetic and dedicated individuals and organizations in this worthy cause. By focusing on strategic growth and commitment to the core mission, she keeps volunteers motivated and purposeful in their efforts on behalf of the girls. One of my primary roles as a Board member has been to link Girls Gotta Run with the extensive running community in the Washington, DC region. I have had the pleasure of speaking to local running groups, especially teams of girls participating in the Girls on the Run program for middle school girls. I was deeply touched when 40 middle school-aged girls from the Washington International School who were participating in Girls on the Run ran a lap-a-thon to raise thousands of dollars - enough to pay for around 100 pairs of shoes - for girls in Ethiopia who are running, literally, out of poverty and into opportunity. Imagine a girl in Ethiopia who loves running and aspires to become a professional runner. If she is given a chance to pursue her dream, she will become healthy and self-confident. As a confident girl, she will be more likely to delay early marriage and childbirth. She will advocate for her education and well-being, and her parents and community will respect her. Whether she becomes a professional athlete or not, she will be able to get job, help support a family, become a leader in her community, and live longer. Girls Gotta Run has a mission of making this story a reality for over 40 girls in Ethiopia. With a broader base of support, the impact of our work can be greatly magnified and reach the thousands of other girl runners who currently lack any support. Because of its innovative model, successful outcomes, and strong leadership, Girls Gotta Run greatly deserves recognition and support. I am honored to be associated with Pat and the organization’s other volunteers and friends.
It seems a very simple idea to provide running shoes so that young girls by being on a running team can stay in school and obtain an education. The other choice for many of these young women, girls really, is to be in an arranged marriage, often to a much older man. Over many obstacles; obtaining shoes in Ethiopia, transactions of money, setting up realiable resourses in the country, legal issues of setting up a non profit etc. the dream became a reality.
I first heard about Girls Gotta Run from a teacher at the school where I work and was immediately intrigued because of former work I have done in Africa in addition to my love of running (I coach cross country and track). The mission of the organization is extremely laudable at a time when women's rights and the oppression of women worldwide is becoming a more-recognized and crucial issue in the media. Having visited the girls in Ethiopia, I can attest to how committed and motivated these young women are to work their way out of poverty through running and make a better life for themselves as well as improve the situation of their families and communities. The girls being supported by Girls Gotta Run are also encouraged to stay in school (rather than marry and give birth at an early age), knowing full well that a good education will be equally important in their ability to one day support their families. Running is helping to not only keep them in school but give them the confidence, security, resources and nourishment to achieve these goals. Pat has done a good job of incorporating both the arts and running communities to help raise awareness and support for this important cause. She is very open to suggestions, input and feedback and is inspired by the stories of these girls on a daily basis, working painstakingly to bring them the support and resources that they need. I have loved being involved with this organization and its new and innovative way of helping to empower women in desperate need.
I first heard of GGRF through my daughter Pat. She asked my sisters and I to be part of her plan for the foundation. We thought it was a wonderful idea and just the idea of "new shoes!" for these marvelous young women is inspiring and saying "you are so worth it"! This foundation is a grass roots organization, run by unpaid volunteers, some who run themselves. Kudo's to all involved!
Although my exposure to Patricia Ortman and the Girls Gotta Run Foundation, Inc., I am highly impressed with Pat's dedication, with the serious thought that she has given in forming a Board of Directors and in making this Non-Profit organization stand out with it's business-like approach to day-to-day business. Moreover, the work that the Foundation does, encouraging girls and young women from Ethiopia who are struggling with poverty or with other circumstances that would inhibit their ability not only to identify their strengths, but to become confident that they can change their own destinies is so effective and successful. The Girls Gotta Run Foundation, Inc., is truly an organization that deserves recognition and praise.
I continue to support Girls Gotta Run and a year or so ago, I had a wonderful experience producing a promotional video for Girls Gotta Run. I worked directly with the director of Girls Gotta Run, Pat Ortman, as well as board members and volunteers in the process of producing the video. I conducted interviews with board members and volunteers and was inspired by their passion to the cause of empowering young girls around the world. For example, I was struck by Pat Ortman's story of how she learned about the struggles of young girls in Ethiopia through a newspaper article and was moved to take action to provide the simple yet crucial service of delivering running shoes to young women athletes in Ethiopia. It is inspiring to hear her story of recruiting her friends and family members to join the cause, including her fellow artists. I was impressed by the depth of volunteers' knowledge and experience with the issues surrounding Ethiopian girls and the powerful role that athletics and art play in their development. As a filmmaker, I love the creative spirit that pervades Girls Gotta Run, which makes great use of art, music, and other forms of cultural expression to further the organization's mission. For example, I loved being a part of a "shoe art show", a fund-raising event in which artists created paintings and sculptures incorporating shoes or running. Girls Gotta Run is an organization filled with creativity and positive energy, which really comes through in the video that I produced.
Since coming into contact with the executive director, Pat Ortman, and the GGRF group, I have been nothing but impressed with their passion, energy and organizational skills. What they're doing -- on the ground in Ethiopia -- to help young women there stay in school, avoid childhood marriage and disfiguring pregnancies at a young age -- is remarkable and inspiring. All girls, in all walks of life, should have a choice in their education, their profession, their reproductive health. Three cheers to GGRF for making this a reality in Ethiopia.
When I first met Pat Ortman, I was a participant in a Women's Caucus for Art show in Takoma Park that benefited Girls Gotta Run Foundation. I read the photos and heard the story, and I knew I wanted to help. I applied for a Fulbright to Ethiopia with a proposal to organize a visit to meet the girls while in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Connecting in country proved a challenge since internet, server, and power outages are frequent in Addis, but Pat stepped in from DC and made a call which allowed me to connect with the group. In August 2009, I taught one of the teams' English class with my colleagues (all teachers), and we shared sweet and salty tea over some really inspiring conversations. They taught me new words in Amharic, and it was clear that their lives and opportunities are dramatically increased by the resources that Girls Gotta Run Foundation. To actually hold their hands, embrace them, take photos, share stories was one of the most significant experiences I have had in adulthood. When I returned back to Philadelphia, I arranged a show of Women's Caucus for Art work at Holy Family University to benefit GGRF, and we raised money through art sales, donations, and a raffle. I have been independently fundraising through the sale of my photographs of women and children in Ethiopia, and I will continue to do with no stop. A coffee table book is planned for future fundraising. Overall, I am extremely pleased with my experiences with this nonprofit.
My husband, Stephen Fraunfelter, and I have lived all over the world as a military couple. We have seen the sadness that dictators and Iron Curtains lay at the feet of the people of their countries. And we know we cannot turn our backs or walk away from doing something to help. When Pat and Jim approached us for help we knew that all of the money we were giving to them would go to help the girls so we jumped right in. We are proud to see the work that GGRF has pulled together has grown into such a strong network of support. We do not have children and this is our way of paying forward for a stronger world by helping young people climb out of desperate situations. And we are blessed to be member of GGRF since its inception.
I first learned about Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF) through their excellent and widespread reputation within the Washington DC running community. However when I learned more about their organization I realized a main strength: they reach out to so many more people than just runners. Their board of directors, advisory board, volunteers, and network of supporters spans the communities of not only running but also education, international development, and art. Through all of these connections they achieve unique success in two critical areas: 1) raising funds, and 2) distributing those funds in an informed, considered, and knowledgable way, such that their mission is achieved as effectively as possible. With regard to raising funds, it is a rare organization that can raise money through art sales, portions of online book sales, and marathon running all in the same year! It is this diversity of consideration that has enabled a small organization comprised entirely of volunteer help to nonetheless raise exceptional amounts of money. Then, with regard to distributing funds, GGRF has partnered with a total of four ‘teams’ of female Ethiopian athletes. These teams include Team Tesfa (20 girls), the Simien Girl Runners (10 girls), Team Naftech (7 girls), and Running Across Borders (my own organization; 5 girls). Team Tesfa and Running Across Borders are based outside of Ethiopia while the Simien Girl Runners and Team Naftech are operated entirely by Ethiopian citizens. Thus a balance of perspectives are represented among these partner groups, as are perhaps a balance of approaches toward the mission of supporting impoverished Ethiopian girls who are training to become runners. It has taken the diversity and balance of GGRF’s network to successfully make such a variety of connections, and carefully evaluate the funding needs of each group. GGRF is a unique and interesting foundation with a strong impact on the world through the mission it pursues.
My friend Pat Ortman, a DC area retired women's studies professor, was inspired by a Washington Post article titled