black women

African Girl Goes from Poverty to International Chess Star

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It is difficult to survive with your siblings by scrounging for food.  But that’s the life that was once lived by Phiona Mutesi out of Uganda.   Called “the ultimate underdog” by those who admire her, the young woman has risen to become one of the most celebrated and respected chess superstars in the world.  In fact, they are planning to make a Disney movie out of her story.

When she was three, Mutesi’s father died of AIDS.  She doesn’t even know her real birthday.

“I thought the life I was living, that everyone was living that life,” she said to CNN.

“I was living a hard life, where I was sleeping on the streets, and you couldn’t have anything to eat at the streets. So that’s when I decided for my brother to get a cup of porridge.”

The girl said that her lack of exposure led her to think that this was the life she was intended to live.  A missionary by the name of Robert Katende met the little girl and started a chess program.  He offered a bowl of porridge to any child who would learn how to play.

“It teaches you how to assess, how to make decisions, obstructive thinking, forecasts, endurance, problem solving, and looking at challenges as an opportunity in all cases — and possibly not giving up,” he told CNN. “The discipline, the patience … anything to do with life, you can get it in that game.”

The man immediately noticed how talented the young woman was and groomed her for competition.  She said that it took her a year to learn to play well and that she would walk four miles to practice in order to get the food.
Eventually, Mutesi became the Ugandan champion and was competing in Russia.
“Chess gave me hope, whereby now I’m having a hope of becoming a doctor and … a grand master,” she said.
Disney has bought the rights to her story, which is one that will inspire millions around the world.



  1. Min. Tommy Lee Perry

    June 9, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Chess is life

    • Sky

      June 9, 2013 at 8:15 am

      Yes, and how many wonderful children are growing up in Africa who are deprived of food, family, education etc.?

      Think just because we are in the U.S. that we are above poverty? Many families here are starving also. In Africa far too many are starving and lack an education.

      What are we doing?

      Instead of just making comments and saying when we become lottery winners what we would do, why not do as I have done all of my adult life. Support children and adults who are in Africa to live beyond the poverty level even if they have not graduated from medical or law school.

      For the past 25 years I have supported many from Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast. Many are in the U.S. today and many that I have not been in a position to get them out of their country.

      Today my eldest is 42 years of age in Nigeria struggling presently to open his computer shop. Due to dishonesty from many his shop does not have adequate merchandise to sell.

      Stop wishing people who are suffering good luck. Find a way and support a child/adult to rise above poverty. Just because a person is born to parents who are not financially secure does not mean their children should die in poverty and lack an education.

      Stop dark-skinned people all over the world thinking one is different from the other. Find a way to give a hand to a person who does not have the means.

      Yes, I am American born in the U.S. but give assistance to anyone regardless of where one is born.

      We are all human and should care about each other.

      • Rev. Alvin

        June 9, 2013 at 8:31 pm

        Please inform me of the process to help others. Soon I hope to be in a business to have excess. Just yesterday I told a Nigerian FB friend of my desire for such prosperity. That I could bring children from other nations, get them educated in USA and prepare them to return to their nations to make a difference.Doing what you have done would be a begining. The vision I shared yesterday was just that. I have no knowledge of how to approach this vision to make it reality. Please advise. Thank you in advance.
        Rev. Alvin Franklin

        • Mary

          June 13, 2013 at 10:38 pm

          You can sponsor a child from Africa and other poor countries by contacting World Vision P.O. Box 70399,Tacoma,WA 98481-0399.
          I have sponsored a girl for the past 8 years in Zimbabwe. My money provides food and schooling for her. Extra money helps the family with food and clothing. It only costs $36 per month to save a child.

  2. coast cooker

    June 9, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Beautiful story I wish her well..

  3. rubyfromnj

    June 9, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Phiona is a blessing. It literally hurts my heart when I think of how many black children here and abroad are suffering. Mark her as one more child who has escaped a life of poverty and early death. More power to you, Phiona Mutesi. May you achieve your dream of becoming a doctor AND a grandmaster.


      June 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      wesome i think she desrves it she worked hard for it.

  4. Dee

    June 10, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Fly black butterfly! Fly!!

  5. Barbara Brewer

    June 11, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    The African girl possess perservance, faith in herself, focus on the opportunity that came her way. The Lord gave us all a gift, it up to the person to struggle with odds and make it a reality, which was displayed in her becoming a top chess player. May she continue the ladder of success.

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