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March 27, 2012: Denison Student Collecting School Supplies for African Village

Denison Student Collecting School Supplies for African Village By Anna Sudar Mansfield News Journal

GRANVILLE — Makorobondo “Dee” Salukombo never has been one to shy away from a challenge.
A five time All-American runner at Denison University, Salukombo ran 21 miles two years ago on his 21st birthday, raising $1,000 for his church.

In spring 2011, he ran from Denison University to his home in Lakewood to raise money to help build a school in his hometown, the village of Kirotshe in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Now, Salukombo has taken on another challenge — trying to fill a shipping container with school supplies and books for the people of Kirotshe.

The supplies will be used to start a library and technology center in the village, Salukombo said.
“In my village, they don’t have a library,” he said, “and the only way to bring peace to the area is education.”
Salukombo was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to parents who were passionate about the importance of education.

But in 1997, a civil war started in the country, putting their entire family at risk.
Salukombo’s father’s job made him a target for the rebel soldiers. He was in and out of jail and was almost killed several times.

He was forced to flee to Uganda to save his life, leaving Salukombo’s mother to care for seven children by herself. She earned money selling anything she could find to keep the kids in school, he said.
In 2001, the family joined their father in Uganda. For three years, Salukombo’s parents struggled to earn enough to feed the children and continue their education.

“My dad and mom valued education above anything,” he said.

In 2004, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees allowed Salukombo’s family to come to America. They settled in Cleveland and Salukombo attended Lincoln West High School and later Lakewood High School.
During high school, Salukombo discovered track and cross country. He was blown away by the educational opportunities available in Ohio.

He was surprised to find that each student was given their own textbooks and that he could go to the library and use books and computers.

“It was a huge difference,” he said. “There were resources I could use to learn whatever I wanted.”
Salukombo decided to attend Denison, where he bonded with Phil Torrens, the school’s cross country coach and assistant track coach.

A chemistry major, Salukombo has shattered school distance records. He recently finished third in the 5,000 at the NCAA Division III national meet in Grinnell, Iowa.
But throughout his success, he never forgot his village.

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