Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Hope Runs

Hope Runs
By Claire Diaz-Ortiz & Samuel Ikua Gachagua
Revell, 2014


Sammy Ikua Gachagua had lost his father to illness, his mother to abandonment, and his home to poverty. By age ten, he was living in a shack with seven other children and very little food. He entered an orphanage seeing it as a miracle with three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and clothes on his back.
When Claire Diaz-Ortiz arrived in Kenya at the end of an around-the-world journey, she decided to stay the night, climb Mt. Kenya, then head back home. She entered an orphanage seeing it as little more than a free place to spend the night before her mountain trek. God had other plans.
Hope Runs is the emotional story of an American tourist, a Kenyan orphan, and the day that would change the course of both of their lives forever. It's about what it means to live in the now when the world is falling down around you. It's about what it means to hope for the things you cannot see. Most of all, it's about how God can change your life in the blink of an eye.

My thoughts

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.

Sammy Ikua Gachagua

Sammy Ikua Gachagua was born in rural Kenya in 1992. After losing his family at a young age, he struggled to survive until he was placed in Tumaini Children's Home in Nyeri, Kenya. In 2009 he received a full-ride scholarship to Maine Central Institute, granting him a rare US visa and the chance to begin his sophomore year of high school under the guardianship of Claire Diaz-Ortiz. He is now serving in the developing world as a fellow for Global Citizen Year. He is an up-and-coming motivational speaker at such conferences as Blissdom. Connect with Sammy on Twitter.

 Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Claire Diaz-Ortiz leads social innovation at Twitter, Inc., and is the author of several books, including Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time. Named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, she is a frequent international speaker on social media, business, and innovation and writes a popular business blog at She holds an MBA from Oxford University and an MA and BA in anthropology from Stanford University. She is cofounder of Hope Runs, a non-profit organization operating in AIDS orphanages in Kenya. Claire has been called a "mover and shaker" by Mashable, "the woman who got the pope on Twitter" by The Washington Post, a "force for good" by Forbes, and "one of the most generous in social media" by Fast Company. She has been widely written about in such publications as the New York Times, Business Week, The Washington Post, and Forbes. Connect with Claire on Twitter.

Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

1 comment:

  1. I have been wanting to read this. Just sounds like one of those amazing stories. I love inspirational books that grow us into becoming better people.
    And wanted to stop by and say hello!