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Tergat lends a hand to new generation

October 19, 2005 10:49 IST

As a child, world marathon record holder Paul Tergat had a good incentive for going to school every day -- a free, hot meal provided by the World Food Programme (WFP).

The Kenyan double Olympic medallist is already repaying that debt, working as an ambassador for the WFP. Now he is going one step further by setting up his own charitable foundation to help identify and nurture children with sporting talent.

"The foundation was born out of conviction that our society is rich in the potential found in its people," Tergat, Olympic 10,000 metres silver medallist in 1996 and 2000, said at the recent launch of the foundation.

"This untapped potential must not only be identified and encouraged but should also be made to flourish through availing of facilities and resources," said Tergat, 36.

"My experience with the WFP's school feeding programme, as a beneficiary and now a promoter, has greatly enlightened me on the enormous needs of millions of children in the least developed and developing worlds."

Tergat, a five times world cross country champion, was one of 17 children born to a family in Kenya's Rift Valley.

"I grew up in a very humble background," he says on the WFP's website. "It was very difficult for us to go to school. Life was very difficult. Poverty was rampant in our area."


Things changed when the WFP began providing free lunches in schools.

"It was the best incentive for us to know when we got to school we would get a meal of hot, steamy food," Tergat said. "We didn't miss a single day.

"I think without this motivation to go to school a lot of us would have dropped out. It is hard to concentrate on an empty stomach."

Tergat, who will make his New York marathon debut on November 6 against a strong field, has long been involved in charity work.

By setting up the Paul Tergat Foundation he is following in the footsteps of a host of African athletes who have used their wealth to help ease problems at home.

Former women's marathon world record holder Tegla Loroupe, one of the guests at Tergat's launch, organises road races to promote her foundation's causes -- conflict resolution, peace building and poverty reduction.

The Tegla Loroupe Foundation targets rural communities in Kenya, Uganda, southern Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Kipchoge Keino, who won Olympic gold medals in Mexico (1,500 metres) in 1968 and in Munich (3,000 metres steeplechase) four years later, helps to raise funds in Britain for the education of orphans and abandoned children.

Keino owns an international school in Eldoret, some 350 kms north-west of Kenya's capital Nairobi, where the majority of the pupils are funded by donors.

"The best assistance to give a child is education. As we came into this world with nothing, so we shall go back," Keino has said.


Across the border, Tanzania's Filbert Bayi runs a foundation to help promote sporting talent and education.

Bayi, a former world mile record holder, owns several schools in Tanzania's commercial capital Dar es Salaam, with subsidised fees for children from poor backgrounds.

Further south, in Mozambique, former Olympic and world 800 metres champion Maria Mutola funds a programme to help young athletes with food, education and training.

Tergat told the audience at his launch, who included Olympic 3,000 metres steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi and former Boston City marathon champion Moses Tanui, he wanted to help the next generation of sportsmen and women.

"I want to support children and groups from extremely disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds, such as from marginalised rural communities and urban slum dwellers to access life skills and nutritional support," said Tergat.

"This foundation will expand access to affordable healthcare and promote awareness on affordable healthy living."

Tergat added: "As I have traversed the world in my other roles, I cannot cease to be grateful for the many blessings that have come my way.

"As the Holy Scripture says, for whoever much is given, much is expected. It is therefore my privilege to help in any small way in giving back to society."


Isa Omok
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