Yonas Kinde: From Refugee Taxi Driver to Olympic Athlete
What is good about the first-ever Olympic team of refugee athletes? Well, aside from opening our eyes to the plight of the 21,300,000 refugees around the world, it also enlightens us about the real state of the countries where these refugees came from.
Take the case of Yonas Kinde, marathon runner from Ethiopia. He ran away from his country because he felt it was impossible to live there, much less develop his skills as an athlete. So, for the love of his sport, he escaped.
Ethiopia, after all, has been beset with years of drought and famine. It is also a country where political and moral problems pervade. Abuse through false imprisonment, murder, rape, and other forms of torture is practiced by the military. The citizens are overcome with fear as basic human rights are suppressed. Worse, it has been besieged with decades of war and violence resulting to poverty. Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world with close to half living below $1.25 per day.
On this situation, the soft-spoken Yonas says, “Whenever I remember my homeland, I feel great sadness.” He felt powerless there, he adds.
It’s a good thing Yonas was able to seek refuge in Luxembourg. He has been living in Luxembourg for 5 years and granted international protection 3 years ago. So life is much happier for him now. He is enjoying the freedom and feels much more integrated now. He is working as a taxi driver and taking French lessons to adapt. He also rekindled his love for running by joining, and winning, in several long-distance races in Europe (Luxembourg, Belgium, France, and Germany). He might have felt powerless in Ethiopia but with running, he feels powerful.
What has made him even happier and more grateful is being drafted for the team of Refugee Olympic Athletes despite his age. He is very grateful for this chance because at 36 years old, he is already at an age where most athletes are retiring. He feels so motivated that he now trains two times in a day.
Yonas has truly come a long way from his Ethiopian roots. And with his life journey, he is telling us that we’re never too old to start over. And that sooner or later, we will also find what makes us happy and be grateful for it. “Even if the situation is not good, you can still have good results if you love what you do.”
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