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At the Mary Keitany Shoe4Africa Secondary School in Torokwonin, Baringo County, life for Form Two student Sharon Ngetich is a daily struggle. In this remote region, a cup of clean water is a precious luxury, food is often scarce, and electricity remains an unfulfilled dream at Sharon’s home. Despite these harsh conditions which have followed her throughout her life, Sharon rises each morning with a relentless drive to change her future.

Sharon’s journey to school is no easy feat, she dreams of next year, form three, when she may be able to board at school. No roads reach her school; instead, a rugged, rocky path that takes a 4×4 truck half an hour to travel less than ten kilometers is her only route. Yet, these obstacles have not deterred her spirit. Inspired by the former Marathon World record holder, Mary Keitany, who was born just a kilometer away on top of a hill known as the “hill that nobody climbs,” Sharon, like Mary, has resolved to use athletics as a means to transform her life.

Every morning, before the sun rises, Sharon laces up her worn-out shoes and begins to run. Her dedication to the sport is unwavering, and she has managed to make a name for herself in school competitions, consistently emerging victorious. Her success at these events spurred her to aim higher, and last month she qualified for the county championships, where she again came out on top.

Her journey did not stop there. Sharon’s talent and determination earned her a place at the prestigious North Rift Championships, a region known as the home of the world’s best distance runners. Competing against some of the toughest athletes, Sharon secured an impressive fourth place in the 400m hurdles. Her achievement has also inspired her schoolmates, demonstrating that success through education and sports is attainable, even in the most challenging circumstances.

In a rural area where a daily wage can be as low as a couple of dollars, Sharon’s perseverance is inspiring. To recognize her efforts and inspire her further, we awarded her a modest prize of $40. This prize, while small in the USA, is substantial for Sharon, and it symbolizes that hard work pays. Mary Keitany reminded Sharon that when she was her age she never had been given any money, and pointing to Sharon’s shoes, Mary told her that she was shoeless at that age.

Sharon Ngetich’s story at what is the fifth school we have built in Kenya is not just about athletic prowess; it is a story of the power of dreams. She is the first child in the school to travel out of her county and despite the odds stacked against her, her race proved that determination in athletics and discipline in schooling will open unexpected doors, even to the child born into poverty. (Picture shows Sharon meeting her idol and four time NYC marathon winner, Mary Keitany).

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