Ethiopian distance runner Feyisa Lilesa, a silver medal winner at the Rio Olympics, made headlines around the world when he crossed his wrists above his head, making a symbol that has become the rallying cry for protests in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. That political gesture put the runner at grave personal risk, and now some in the Ethiopian diaspora want to help him. Solomon Ungashe of California is one of the three people who co-sponsored a gofundme account for the runner. Gofundme is an online crowdsourcing platform used to raise money for charitable and personal campaigns.
Ungashe told VOA the athlete didn't initiate it or ask people to help him, but supporters figured it was necessary and, through the account, they have been able to raise more than $100,000 so far. Separately, they have sent three people who paid out-of-pocket to fly to Rio and provide support.
"Feyisa did what he did to raise the bigger issue, but again he left everything that he has. This man is a person who apparently lives a comfortable life at home in Ethiopia, and he left all that behind," Ungashe said. Ungashe added that the money may be used to pay for an immigration lawyer to help the runner get a visa, as well as to facilitate his move to a new country. Ungashe hopes the runner will choose to resettle in the U.S.
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