Making Tennis Available to Everyone

Habtu Afework Belayneh -- PTR Humanitarian of the Year 2018

Not every humanitarian can create a foundation or has one that supports their good work. Not every humanitarian is visible during a disaster, like J.J. Watt. Some live their lives every day as quiet humanitarians. They do their good work without expectations for praise or awards. Arthur Ashe said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Habtu does just that. Now a Director of Tennis at Tivoli Lakes in Florida, Habtu has never forgotten his humble Ethiopian roots and does what he can to support deserving young people from his country. And he does it through tennis. As the national team coach and technical head coach for the Ethiopian Tennis Federation (1984-93), Habtu was able to start the summer camp for underprivileged children and year round junior development programs. Dozens of kids were introduced to tennis through these programs, but Habtu wanted them to have more. He began looking for broader opportunities. He obtained scholarships at Van der Meer Tennis Academy for six to 12 players a year, and has helped players obtain college tennis scholarships. As Habtu had hoped, many are success stories; one is a lawyer; another is a bank vice president, another owns a 16 court tennis facility. Habtu was also involved in building a home for the elderly in rural Ethiopia that proudly displays his name on the front door. Beyond his home country, Habtu serves his adopted country as well. Habtu supports Special Olympics with fundraisers at Tivoli Lakes, and he and his wife adopted her Down syndrome niece to be able to provide a better future for her in the United States. Habtu received $2,500 from PTR Foundation to continue his quiet humanitarian efforts.