Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption is an inspiring memoir - a story about real people in a cross-cultural setting, a story about growing up, a story of how God brought two people together and both of their lives were all the richer for it. The events as told by both Claire and Sammy are woven together in a consecutive way that makes the narrative flow smoothly. Some parts seem a little long, but the candid and strong story make it an enjoyable memoir, well worth the read. I especially loved Sammy's writing as he gives voice to what growing up in Kenya was like for him.
Taking advantage of a free night's stay at an orphanage, Claire soon discovered that God had much more in mind and began a journey in relationship with one very special child named Sammy. Used to quick visits, Sammy wasn't initially welcoming to Claire and writes: "The typical visitor at Imani shows up without knowing anyone, volunteers a few hours, takes pictures, and then leaves. All without finding out who lives in the orphanage and who we really are as a people. It is terrible for us kids, and it makes us feel mad and hurt all at the same time."
Realizing the orphanage had a need for extracurricular programming and thinking they could train some of the older adolescents for the marathon along with them, Claire and Lara started a nonprofit organization named "Hope Runs" to support a running program. But this outreach wasn't necessarily without problems, and I appreciated the candidness of their writing. The end result is that Sammy works hard and eventually discovers his own calling: "No matter what, I know that my future career will have something to do with children. I am sick and tired of seeing kids sorrowful, and of being sorrowful myself, and I want to make sure that no other kids go through what I went through."
I want to end with some more of Sammy's thoughts, because I feel his words carry an important message for us: "Claire and Lara proved to be different. They came and they were who they are, and we saw it.. . . Instead of being visitors - different people - they became one of us, they became like sisters. It took some time, but eventually we failed to see their skin color; all we could see were the people behind the skin."
I enjoyed getting to know Sammy in Hope Runs and recommend this memoir to readers looking for a true-life story full of hope and promise.
Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
I liked that the story was told from two different perspectives. It added depth to the story and they were written in a different way so it wasn't confusing figuring out who was speaking. I enjoyed hearing Sammy's story of what brought him to the orphanage but also of his experiences in the orphanage. I didn't relate as well to Claire's story nor enjoy it as much as Sammy's.
This book made me think about short term missions trips and how they don't really help those they are meant to. There were plenty of people who were in Sammy's life one day and out the next. It made me think of how short term missions trips are more for the person going than for anyone else.
** "Sometimes things can get hard - really, really hard - but your dedication and enthusiasm can keep you going. There are always moments in the race when you are tired and can't move one more step. But you do, and you keep yourself going because there is a prize at the end. You keep running." **
"We come to Kenya to climb a mountain." And does Claire Diaz-Ortiz ever.
A decision to travel around the world for a year with her friend, Lara, forever changes the lives of these two young women. They wrap up their voyage in Kenya, set to run in a marathon. While there, Claire and Lara get connected with the Imani Children's Home, where they begin a running program for the children and meet Sammy, a young boy whose father is dead and mother has abandoned him.
Claire and Sammy document their journey in "Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption." It's a heart-warming tale of love, determination, perseverance, hope, joy, overcoming trials and adversity, and so much more.
Through her past experiences and her journey of meeting and loving these Kenyan orphans, Claire learns a valuable lesson in helping others - true change comes when the volunteer is transformed. We are reminded that when we help others, we are often getting so much more in return.
Claire and Lara quickly fall in love with the precocious Sammy and, over time, develop a plan to bring him to the United States - as a scholarship student to the Maine Central Institute. They must learn how to "parent" a teen-ager as twentysomethings, and often from a distance.
"Hope Runs" is such an uplifting story. It truly encourages us to reach out and help others, but to make sure you've truly helped yourself so that you can be a gift to others. Claire often struggles with not being just the "white savior" who comes and goes quickly in these children's lives. It's a great reminder to try to make a lasting impact in other's lives. Sammy's story, especially, encourages us to keep going, to never give up, to find the good in the bad.
He writes "_Bad and painful moments come and go, and they are all part of the life we are called to live. The best thing we can do is deal with everything as well as possible."
"Hope Runs" is a raw and honest telling of a story of love and redemption. It's truly an inspiration. Claire is an inspiration for standing up for those who need help. Sammy is an inspiration that no matter how bad things get, there is always a prize at the end of the race. Just keep running!
Five stars out of five.
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.
"Hope Runs" by Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Samuel Ikua Gachagua is the story of an African boy named Sammy who is opened up to a world of possibilities through the orphanage matrons God places in his life, and also through two unlikely heroes: Claire Diaz-Ortiz and Lara Vogel. Claire and Lara are travelers. Throughout their early 20's, they rarely stay in one place for too long. They visit Alaska, Mexico, Italy, and many other places before they end up in Africa, where they will eventually end up spending an entire year and then visiting many times after.
When Claire and Lara meet Sammy, he is a 15 year old boy who has already lived at the Imani Children's Home for several years. His father died when he was just a small boy, and his mother struggled to make ends meet. Finally, one day when he was about 9 years old, Sammy's mother left and never came back leaving Sammy and his older brother, Muriithi to care for their 4 year old sister Bethi. Bethi eventually was taken in by family, but the boys were sent to an orphanage as their family did not have enough food for all of them.
Claire and Lara quickly form a bond with Sammy and see something extraordinary in him. They find a way for him to finish his high school years in America, and somehow become his guardians even though they don't live anywhere near him. It is under somewhat strange circumstances as Claire and Lara are not old enough to adopt him themselves, but yet they are responsible for him as mother figures.
To me, Claire and Lara seem like such an unlikely pair of friends. Claire is a Christian. Lara is not. In a way, I feel like this could be very confusing to Sammy as he does not understand how a lot of things work. The girls have to teach him many things about life as he is understandably somewhat naive.
Another thing I thought was really interesting were the differences between Claire and Sammy's cultures. You really don't have any idea how different they act and think until you hear them speak from their point of view. For instance, Claire once asked Sammy in front of a group of people if he was in the 8th grade. Of course Claire didn't mean anything by what she said, but to Sammy it was highly offensive. To him and the other 9th grade boys in their culture it meant that he was immature and not yet a man.
Another interesting difference occurred when Claire and Lara brought over 100 pair of shoes for the students so that they could get involved in running. Many of the orphans were grateful for what the girls had done, but many of them refused their shoes because they felt those shoes were not the best and they wanted to have the best with what little they did have. To you and I, we may think that sounds crazy. They have so little. Shouldn't they be thankful for what they have? It is just another one of the differences between our cultures. They view things differently and may not be able to express all of those reasons in ways we understand.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book and afterwards I found myself thinking about it often and asking myself questions. Wondering why certain events turned out the way they did, or what motivated some of the girls' choices. It was truly an inspirational read that I would recommend. There wasn't an incredible amount of spiritual content as I would have expected, and I wondered if that had something to do with Lara not being a Christian, but I could be wrong. The book also ends with Sammy returning to Kenya. I will be curious to hear more about him in the future to see what God has in store for him.
I rate this book as 5 stars. I received this book for free from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for my honest unbiased opinion.