With the Olympics in full swing, I’d love to recap an inspiring story of an Olympic runner from Uganda who has helped others even when he had so little. The article, Born to Run Back, was featured in Runner’s World Magazine; I encourage you to read the whole thing, but in the mean time, here is a summary of Achon’s life and philanthropy.
At age 12 Julius Achon was one of many children during Uganda’s civil war to be kidnapped from his home and recruited as a child solider. He was one of very few who were able to escape. Inspired by the success Uganda’s famous Olympic 400 meter runner, John Akii-Bua, Achon started running—without shoes mind you. He had a talent for running, and qualified to the district championships. Having no car and no money for transportation, he ran 42 miles to the championships in Lira. He competed the day after he arrived and won the 800, 1500, and 3000 meter races.
With the help of a recruiter from an elite high school who witnessed Achon’s wins at the championship, Achon kick started his running career and education. Later recruited by George Mason University, he competed in the U.S., earned an NCAA title, and ran for Uganda in the Olympics.
Though having much athletic success, Achon still found it difficult to make ends meet financially. After finishing college, he would send money back home to Uganda to help support his family, even when he himself had no place to live. While visiting his village, he encountered 11 orphans seeking shelter under a bus. With the permission of his father and a commitment to send money, Achon brought the orphans into his family’s home.
Over the years Achon’s salary was barely enough to send home money to feed the orphans and to support him. But even with his own financial struggles, he still yearned to improve conditions back home. With his help, he was able to improve the home for the orphans, paying $300 to equip the home with light and $500 for water supply. Achon eventually started his own nonprofit called the Achon Uganda Children’s Fund, and has even started to build a medical clinic in his village.
There is so much more to the story but you’ll have to check it out yourself! Achon’s philanthropy is very inspiring; it takes a very selfless person to continually help others when one has so little to begin with.
Did Achon’s story move you? I would love to hear your thoughts.