Resilience, also known as inner strength, has gotten many people through the most difficult challenges they’ve faced in life. Overcoming personal tragedy and working towards being an inspiration to others is a priceless trait. Take 33-year-old Claude Umuhire, a survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, who despite experiencing unimaginable trauma and loss, and turmoil in his personal life, turned his own misfortune into a source of inspiration for others by dedicating his life to helping homeless people in the UK. His story Born in 1990, Umuhire was only four years old when the Genocide started. Being so young, the brutal events are a faint memory, but as far as he can remember, it was a terrifying time. His family lived in Kigali at the time, when the killings spread out, together with his father and two siblings, they were part of a large group of Tutsi that were taken to a killing field. “My father shielded me with his body the whole time. He was lying on top of me and that is how I survived,” he says. His father and siblings were killed. From what he can remember, RPF fighters saved them at some point, and they were taken to a UN refugee camp. His mother was receiving treatment as she had severe injuries and later left for the UK. At the camp, he was later resettled in the UK as a refugee at the age of 10, where he reunited with his mother. Putting the hardships he had encountered behind him, he now had to adapt to a new environment and culture and rebuild his life. And he was determined to make the most of his second chance. ALSO READ: Managing stress and building resilience; what you should know The effects of the Genocide were not as tough on him as they were on his mother. “As a child, I didn’t understand the situation, but now, I am in a safer place psychologically.” Homeless in the UK After finishing school, Umuhire went on to study at the University of Derby but dropped out after his first year. Naturally, his mother was not happy about his decision. The decision created a rift between them, and it was at that point that he felt he was better off on his own. He couch-surfed for a while—staying overnight at a friend’s place who would provide basic accommodation at no cost—till it became harder to keep accommodating him. He found himself homeless on the streets of central London. During this time, Umuhire would visit his local council for help but being male, healthy, and 19, he didn’t qualify for support. He was sent to a youth centre that helped young homeless people find accommodation and employment, but with his refugee status and no ID, as he had lost his travel documents, they couldn’t help him much either. With dark thoughts clouding his better judgment, Umuhire turned to alcohol and drugs for solace. He tried to get his identification resolved and was sent to a shelter where he spent his nights and would go to the local council’s shelter for breakfast. There, one day, he met one of the co-founders of ‘The Running Charity’, Alex Eagle. Eagle, a sports development worker, took an interest in Umuhire and would spend time chatting with him as they worked out together. During that time, the other co-founder, James Gilley, visited and mentioned that his friend had died from an overdose, and only found out when he died that he was homeless. Gilley wanted to do something in his friend’s honour, and thought about getting a group of homeless people to train and get them to run in the London Marathon, the second largest annual road race in the UK, after the Great North Run in Newcastle. Umuhire attended ‘The Running Charity’ pilot sessions where he trained three times a week, completing his first 5km park run in Hampstead. “Running enabled me to be mentally strong whenever hardships surfaced. I would run to approach difficult situations,” he says, adding that it promoted healthier thinking and a positive mindset. ALSO READ: Youth urged to break silence on mental health issues “More importantly, running gave me an opportunity to help other young people going through tough times, like refugees escaping wars and kids with mental health issues. “My purpose was to show them a better way to handle tough situations and take control of their lives and aspire to greater and better things ahead,” he says. Being another’s keeper Umuhire has had very many memorable moments to feel proud of, however, helping a young homeless man run his first ever 5km park run, sticks out. After graduating from ‘The Running Charity’, Umuhire volunteered as a mentor there for two years. Through his own personal hardships, Umuhire went on to uplift other vulnerable people and help them find a way as he did. As a volunteer, he also studied to be a personal trainer where he was eventually offered a full-time job as the first Programmes Coach for the organisation. His tasks, which included developing different programmes, saw him help over 200 at-risk homeless people, using sport as a catalyst for proactive physical and mental change. He also helps members set realistic goals to get them integrated back into society. Running towards success In 2015, he ran his first London Marathon, and in 2018, he was awarded a Spirit of the London Marathon Award — an award which showcases the extraordinary stories of London Marathon runners, champions, volunteers, and supporters — a moment, he says, he never dreamed would happen. That specific moment and achievement in his running career were particularly meaningful to him—running gave him experience and influenced his goals and aspirations for the future. “The marathon is all about determination, the more you train, the more adventurous you become. “My message to those going through similar adversity to me, we are more resilient than we think and in the most hopeless of times, it’s important not to focus on things that are out of your control but things you can control. “For me, my health was one of the things I felt I still had control over. As my body got stronger and fitter, I also became mentally healthier and happier with a positive outlook on life. Control the small things in your life, everything else will fall into place.” In 2020, Umuhire ran the London Marathon for a second time which was a virtual event due to the Covid-19 pandemic and looks to do so much more.