Eight-year-old homeless refugee wins a chess championship, inspires a tidal wave of generosity.

Eight-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewumi won first place in the New York State Scholastic Championships tournament for kindergarten through third grade March 10.

He went undefeated in the tournament beating children from elite private schools.

“I want to be the youngest grandmaster,” he told the New York Times.


While the feat is impressive, what’s even more remarkable is that Tani, as he’s known, has only been playing chess for one year. Add to that, he’s only lived in America for two years — his family fled northern Nigeria in 2017 avoid being killed by Boko Haram terrorists.

And he lives in a homeless shelter.

For a little more than a year, Tani and his mother and father have lived in a shelter in New York City. His mother recently passed a course to become a home health aide and his father, Kayode, rents a car so he can drive for Uber and recently became a licensed real estate salesman.

The family has requested asylum, but their request is coming along slowly. The have a hearing scheduled for August.

Young Tani already has seven chess trophies that sit beside his bed in the shelter. He became enamored with the game after joining the chess club at his school P.S. 116. When the head of the school’s chess program, Russell Makofsky, heard that Tani's Family as homeless he waived the fees.

“He is so driven,” his school chess teacher, Shawn Martinez, said. “He does 10 times more chess puzzles than the average kid. He just wants to be better.”

In addition to participating in the school chess program, every Saturday he attends a three-hour practice session in Harlem. He also practices every night on his father's laptop.

When news of his astonishing story spread, Makofsky started a GoFundMe campaign to help the family find a place to live. In just four days the campaign has already raised nearly $200,000 for the family — more than enough to get them an apartment.

After the generous donations poured in and the family knew they could get back on their feet, Kayode decided to pay it forward. He announced on the GoFundMe page that the rest of the money would go to create the Tanitoluwa Adewumi Foundation “to share the generosity of others to those in need.”

“The U.S. is a dream country,” Kayode told The New York Times. “Thank God I live in the greatest city in the world, which is New York, New York.”

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
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Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

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This article originally appeared on 06.16.15


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Moms and dads of the digital age are well aware of the growing competition for their children's attention, and they're bombarded at each turn of the page or click of the mouse with both cutting-edge ideas and newfound worries for raising great kids.

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