Stars of the Show by David Kafambe

Every year, we host a global 5K run, aiming to raise funds to support education for young scholars. However, in 2023, something extraordinary happened. Amidst the crowd of determined athletes, a young man named Mihretu emerged, not just as a winner but as a star. He blazed through the course, setting a breathtaking record of 13 minutes. That was the moment we knew: Mihretu was not just a runner; he was a comet streaking towards the Olympics!

The world needs to see Mihretu, and the perfect stage was the Source of the Nile Half Marathon in Uganda. This event is a beacon for budding talent, a place where legends like Jacob Kiplimo (the world record holder for the half marathon) began their journey. With eyes full of dreams and a heart full of hope, Mihretu stepped onto this hallowed ground.

Mihretu, 119, with racers in Uganda for the Source of the Nile Half Marathon.

Let’s rewind a bit to understand Mihretu’s journey. Born in the Ethiopian countryside, running was in his blood. Inspired by the great Haile Gebrselassie, an Ethiopian Olympic gold medalist and four-time World Champion runner, Mihretu moved to Addis Ababa when he was 10 years old, with dreams bigger than his young shoulders. Life was tough. No home, no school, just a small room near a garbage dump where he was allowed to sleep on the floor next to the stove. But his spirit was unbreakable. Each dawn, he ran—fueled not by food, but by sheer will. 

His path was fraught with dangers, from hyenas to unsavory characters, but Mihretu’s feet never stopped. His resilience caught the eye of Engidawork Lemma, our Youth Development Coordinator, which led to a scholarship and a leap from the streets to the school halls. His persistence, now coupled with proper guidance, shaped him into not just the tallest or the oldest in his class, but also the fastest. Now in the 8th grade at age 20, Mihretu continues to lace up his running shoes every morning at 4 am, embarking on long runs through the Ethiopian landscape.

Fast forward to the Source of the Nile Half Marathon, and Mihretu was no longer just a dreamer; he was a doer. Amidst seasoned marathoners, he ran with a heart unweighted by fear or doubt. He came in 21st, crossing the finish line in 1 hour and 14 minutes. Mihretu didn’t just complete a race; he began a legacy.

Mihertu was cheered on by one of our long-time supporters, Pauline Beh.

On race day, Mihertu was interviewed by a TV station in Uganda.

Now, with eyes set on the Olympics, Mihretu’s story is more than just about running. It’s about rising against odds, about the relentless pursuit of dreams, and about the unwavering spirit of a young man who ran not just for himself, but for his country, for his people, and for every dreamer out there who dares to believe.

As we watch Mihretu’s journey unfold, let’s remember: every step he takes on the track is a testament to the human spirit’s ability to triumph over adversity. This is just the beginning for Mihretu, but his story already reads like a legend.

Mihretu was joined at the race by International Samaritan team members and a long-time supporter. From left to right: Engidawork Lemma, Pauline Beh, Mihretu, David Kafambe, Andrew Pawuk, and Selam Terefe.

During Lent, we’re speaking out for the millions of children around the world who live and work in garbage dumps. Learn how you can make the Samaritan Sacrifice.

Selam Terefe, Regional Director, East Africa

Selam has years of experience in international development and aid. Her education and career have given her a thorough and in-depth knowledge of gender, legal, social, and political issues of East Africa with a special focus on Ethiopia. Selam is passionate about development in Africa and a strong believer in effective partnerships.

David Kafambe, Uganda Country Director

David has more than 15 years of leadership experience and a deep knowledge of East Africa. He specializes in managing and developing organizations in development and humanitarian contexts. He has degrees in Community Development, Business Administration, and an M.B.A.

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