On Saturday, the nonprofit organization Fields of Promise will host a 5K fundraiser, the Run for Orphans.
“One of the sayings we will be using to promote our sponsorship program this year is, ‘Everyone, know one’ relating to the goal of everyone knowing at least one orphan personally, by name. When you have seen their faces, heard their story and know what they face on a daily basis, it changes you,” said event organizer Pam Zicker.
And if anyone knows about change it is Zicker, of Lawrence, whose family underwent a major transformation when she met Natinael, an orphan from Ethiopia who became her son in 2005. Nati’s adoption led to a series of events that altered not only the Zickers but has brought positive change for people in Ethiopia as well.
Fields of Promise Run for Orphans
When: 8 a.m. Saturday,Oct. 23 registration 7:15 a.m.
Where: Begins and ends at Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 3312 Calvin Drive
Cost: 5K fees are $25 per person or $60 for families of three or more
For more information or to donate, visit fieldsofpromise.org.
While bringing Nati home, Zicker’s husband, Steve, a veterinarian, agreed to meet with a fellow veterinarian who had been in the country for more than 25 years.
“He challenged me with the concept that anyone can do what we’re doing in the United States, but (they) need people with my skill sets to come to Ethiopia and work,” Steve said.
He took a year’s leave from his job at Hill’s Pet Nutrition to teach at a veterinary school in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. In July 2006, the Zickers and their children, Curtis, then 9, Cailyn, 8, Lydia 6, and Natinael, 4, boarded a plane for Africa.
While Steve is committed to helping train a new generation of veterinarians in a country that has the largest population of livestock in Africa but the lowest ratio of veterinarians to animals, Pam and the children found places where they, too, could make a difference.
Studies indicate 90 percent of the world’s blind people live in the developing world and approximately 3.6 percent of the population of Ethiopia is either blind or has low vision, most of which is caused by the spread of bacteria. And while there are some government services for this population, they are not enough.
“The Mekelle Blind School serves over 90 students from all over the Tigray region,” Pam said. “But because of funding limitations, they must ask the students to leave the boarding school when they reach eighth grade or once they turn 18, whichever comes first. So the students are really without family support, without housing. And yet they’re trying to finish their education so they can avoid a life of begging.”
The Zickers began a nonprofit — Fields of Promise — to partner with the school and match children to families for $20 a month. The money goes to help with food, clothing and books.
“The most amazing thing to us is how much can be done with so little money,” Pam said.
Medical outreach is a third focus of the organization. In the area where HIV infects between 8 percent to 16 percent of the population, Fields of Promise partnered with a group from Holland to build a clinic to provide better access to health care, reduce the spread of infection, identify those with HIV and serve as a place where doctors come for short-term medical mission stays.
Lawrence physician Kevin Stuever with his wife, Susan, and children Stefanie, 19, Sarah, 17, and C.J., 15, accompanied the Zickers this summer to work in the clinic.
“The clinic had just opened, and we were able to do baseline exams on 300 children,” said Susan Stuever, a nurse practitioner.
The final focus, and where the money raised by the 5K will go, is to sponsor the fourth branch of the nonprofit: orphan care.
“The work that Pam and her family are doing with the orphans is truly amazing,” Susan Stuever said. “They have made an environment for these children, many of whom lost their parents to HIV, and created a home for them.”
One of those children was Eyerusalem, who joined the Zicker family in 2008 when she was 9.
While their work has made a positive impact on lives in Ethiopia, perhaps the most profound effect of Fields of Promise and their work has been on the Zickers themselves who, Pam admits, look at things through a slightly different lens.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t somehow think of these kids,” she said. “They deal with so many things our children here will never have to even imagine.”