Former marathon champion Paul Tergat says the free daily meals provided by WFP were the only reason he went to school as a child growing up in Kenya's Rift Valley. The opportunity paved the way for him to become one of the world's most talented runners. In 2003, he became a WFP Ambassador against Hunger. Here are the five key dates that Paul says have shaped his life.
I was born in a village called Riwo in a very small town with only a few people called Kabarnet in the Baringo district on 17th June 1969. Now it's a much bigger country town. I grew up with a big family, there were 21 children and I was in between. My father had more than one wife as this was the trend then and my mother was the second wife. We didn't have much at home and I took care of the few cows and sheep. Due to the terrain around Kabarnet, it is very difficult to farm and produce food meaningfully.
I was seven years old when the World Food Programme began the school feeding program locally. My parents sent me to school because they knew we would eat. We got stronger because of the meals. Before the feeding programs there were a lot of dropouts. Children left school to find wild fruits instead of attending class. A meal a day was miraculous.
I started running after primary school and then I went to a boy's high school. You can't find a flat stretch in Kabarnet so I never knew I had talent until after primary school.
After I finished high school, I needed a job to support my family. I joined the Kenya Air Force. That’s where I met many of the top runners in the country. I started running seriously at 18. I was strong and fast. I met a coach who inspired me to concentrate on running.
“As sports men and women, it is important for all of us to use our privileged positions to raise awareness about the challenges that some of the less fortunate among us have to face."
Learn more about Paul Tergat and his role as Ambassador Against Hunger for WFP.
I left Kenya for the first time to participate in the World Cross Country Championship in Boston. It defined my life. I had never taken a commercial flight. I saw the tallest buildings of my life. The harbor was so modern, nothing like Nairobi. There was affluence, people enjoying their life. Escalators that were so tall, I didn't know how to walk on them. I had never seen snow or ice.
But the event was disappointing. Everyone was looking and waiting to see what I would do for my country. During the morning run before the race I tore a calf muscle and the injury forced me out of the race. It was the saddest moment of my life.
I was nominated by WFP to be an Ambassador Against Hunger. It was a great honor for me to work and contribute my time and give opportunities to people who were like me.
I am still indebted to WFP. They gave me an education, good health and opportunity. Advocating for WFP is very close to my heart.