"I want to be a bridge for a kid who doesn’t know where to go, or what to do. I want to be a role model." - TeamSave athlete Tshibanda Mpoyo. Photo by Save the Children.
A Role Model for Children
The memories come back to 28-year-old Tshibanda Mpoyo in vivid, but broken bursts: The ta-ta-ta-ta of gunshots from somewhere in the trees. The frightened eyes of neighbors trying to make themselves invisible as bands of wild-eyed men with guns march into their small Democratic Republic of Congo village.
Most vivid is the memory of the Sunday morning soldiers broke through his front door, just as Mpoyo and his family were about to leave for church. His father pinned to the floor with a knife to his throat, Mpoyo and his mother and siblings could do nothing but beg and cry.
“But then my brother,” Mpoyo remembered, “started to scream and ran toward my father. I don’t know why none of us were killed that morning, but we weren’t. After that, there was an urgency to leave the country.”
Mpoyo was just 5 when he, his parents and four siblings fled the Democratic Republic of Congo from a bloody and shattering civil war. They arrived in the United States in 1998, one of the few large families able to escape intact and take asylum here.
“I can still see the face of the guard at the airport looking at us wide-eyed, saying ‘All of you? All of you are here?’ ” Mpoyo said. “Most families did not escape without a parent or child being killed. But somehow, my parents, brothers, sisters and I all made it out together.”
A civil engineer who now lives in Illinois and is engaged to be married in December 2017, Mpoyo spends much of his free time trying to help children find and see the opportunities there for them, but that they might not know exist.
In August, when Mpoyo competes in his first-ever triathlon as a member of Team Save the Children, he will help provide opportunities to children in a whole new way. Designed for those who want to both participate in a prestigious athletic endurance event and make a difference in the lives of children in need, Team Save the Children provides members who join as individuals, or as part of a group, with guaranteed entry into some of the most prestigious marathons, half marathons, triathlons and athletic events, including Ironman competitions, Tough Mudders and runDisney events.
For the 2017 Transamerica Chicago Triathlon, Mpoyo had to raise a minimum of $500—something he was able to quickly accomplish. “People tend to be generous when it comes to children,” Mpoyo said simply.
Since it was established in 2015, Team Save the Children has raised over $1 million!
“Competing in a triathlon has always been one of my goals, just as helping children has been something I’ve wanted to do since I was little,” Mpoyo said. “When I was younger, I couldn’t really consider something like a triathlon, because money was so tight. Buying a professional bicycle or the needed swimming equipment, or running shoes, just wasn’t possible. But now I can, and how could I not want to help Save the Children?”
To learn more about getting involved with Team Save the Children please visit www.SavetheChildren.org/TeamSave
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