by Berhane Tadese
The Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association (ECMAA) once again had Organized the 5K Walk for Autism in collaboration of local religious organizations in the metropolitan NYC area. ECMAA is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization whose initiative includes to promote awareness on autism disease. The awareness walk was held on Sunday, June 11, 2017 at the annual Ethiopian picnic day. The 5K walk began about 2:00PM making its way from West 135 Street Nicolas Avenue to 7th Ave. and made a turn at 129 West Street and back to West 135st. St. Nicholas.
The opening remark of the awareness walk was made by Dr. Zergabatchew Asfaw. He is a New York resident and one of esteemed Ethiopian medical doctor. Dr. Zergabatchew practices in Geriatric and internal medicine in NYC for several years. He spoke about the importance of autism awareness day. Dr. Zergabatchew highlighted for each of us to get involved and show support in any way we can for autistic children and their families. He also outlined list of organizations in US to help children with Autism to overcome their challenges. We thank Dr. Zergabatchew for accepting our invitation and willingness to share his knowledge about the disease.
Certainly, unity is powerful force toward common goal and will make a difference in lives of many. As saying goes “it takes a village” and our community must show commitment, passion and dedication to this vital cause. This is in line with ECMAA’s theme: “ ድር ብያብር አንበሳ ያስር. Ethiopians grew up in melting pot culture with many linguistics, religious, and different culture lived together in harmony for several generations.
To galvanize support from the public, the walkathon participants wearing their visor cap, with autism sign, displayed messages. The 5k walk event encourage supporters to stay abreast in advocacy issues, and also to do grassroots efforts to empower individuals and families affected by autism. Every family dynamic is different. This disorder is compounded with our way of life especially in rural of Ethiopia. Ethiopians in rural settings live in subsistence farming, antiquated farming tools, and in small huts or houses with many children. Widespread poverty exist, many depend on food aid coming from the foreign countries. The health care services is an adequate. Government health services is close to nonexistence. In short, the life of ordinary Ethiopians is already tough even without autism factored in. Walking for autism is one type of social support, it will elevate public understanding, combat stigma and expand the conversation to be more inclusive, helps autism families to be more comfortable, and make them proud to be a part of the community.
As you might be aware, Autism is the fastest-growing disorder in several countries including in Ethiopia. Currently, there is no known cure for autism. ECMAA made autism one of the social cause which needs closer attention by Ethiopian community. Growing number of our community members are concerned by waves of autism affecting families. Therefore, autism awareness program is one of outlet at our disposal to use. What makes this time the 5K walk unique is we are joining Ethiopian Autism awareness movement. The 5K awareness walk may not be enough to provide any support but, at very least, it provides opportunity to talk with friends and exchange ideas in how to better support affected families. Through time and experience, we could help in initiating wider movements and help build moral support to autistic child and their families. The 5K walk is a step in the right direction.
Thank you for coming and showing your supports, and also thanks goes to all our teams and volunteers for 2017 walk.