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Eskemar/Shutterstock.com (background); Micah Kandros (Tani Adewumi)


A Place to Call Home

Tani and his family fled to America to escape danger. A year later, he became a chess champ and changed their lives.

As You Read: Think about how Tani handled challenges. How have you overcome challenges in your life?

He couldn’t believe it. Last March, Tani Adewumi won a New York State chess championship. He’d just learned how to play the game about a year earlier. And he was competing against players who had a lot more experience, so no one expected him to win.

Tani didn’t realize it at the time, but that victory would change his life.

He couldn’t believe it. Last March, Tani Adewumi won a New York State chess championship. He’d just learned how to play chess about a year earlier. And he was competing against players who had more experience. No one expected him to win.

Tani didn’t realize it at the time, but that victory would change his life.

Escaping Danger

Jim McMahon/Mapman

Less than two years earlier, Tani and his family had been living in Nigeria, a country in Africa. Tani was born in the wartorn nation, where terrorists have been launching deadly attacks for more than 10 years.

The family was constantly afraid for their lives and knew they had to escape the danger. They fled Nigeria in 2017.

“We didn’t carry that much with us,” Tani recalls. “We just left for a new life.”

The family arrived in New York City six months later with little more than the clothes on their backs. Though Tani’s parents got jobs, they couldn’t afford to rent an apartment. They had no choice but to move into a homeless shelter.

Tani and his older brother, Austin, shared a room on a different floor than their parents. They didn’t have a TV to watch or a fridge to grab a snack from when they got hungry.

“It was rough,” Tani says.

Less than two years earlier, Tani and his family had been living in Nigeria. That’s a country in Africa. Tani was born in the war-torn nation. Terrorists in the country have been launching deadly attacks for more than 10 years.

The family was constantly afraid for their lives. They knew they had to escape the danger. They fled Nigeria in 2017.

“We didn’t carry that much with us,” Tani recalls. “We just left for a new life.”

The family arrived in New York City six months later. They had little more than the clothes on their backs. Though Tani’s parents got jobs, they couldn’t afford to rent an apartment. They had no choice but to move into a homeless shelter.

Tani shared a room with his older brother, Austin. They were on a different floor than their parents. They didn’t have a TV to watch or a fridge filled with snacks.

“It was rough,” Tani says.

Game Changer

As Tani adjusted to a new country and learned a new language, he also started a new school. He didn’t know anyone, but he found a group to connect with: the chess club.

The chess club met every Thursday for two hours. Every night after he finished his homework, Tani would lie on the floor of the shelter and practice for three more hours. All that hard work paid off when he took home the trophy at the tournament last year.

“It was so big, I couldn’t carry it!” Tani remembers.

As Tani adjusted to a new country and learned a new language, he also started a new school. He didn’t know anyone. Then he found a group to connect with: the chess club.

The chess club met every Thursday for two hours. Every night after he finished his homework, Tani would lie on the floor of the shelter and practice for three more hours. All that hard work paid off. He took home the trophy at the tournament last year.

“It was so big, I couldn’t carry it!” Tani remembers.

A New Home

Tani wound up with more than just a trophy. His quick rise from novice to champ caught the attention of a reporter from The New York Times, one of the biggest newspapers in the country. When his story appeared in the news, people around the world donated more than $200,000 to help the Adewumis.

But the family didn’t keep any of it. Instead, Tani’s parents used the money to set up an organization to help other refugees like them. Someone who was inspired by Tani’s story even offered to pay the rent on an apartment for a year. Tani finally had a place to call his own!

Now the fourth-grader has a kitchen where his mom cooks his favorite meals and a laptop for practicing chess. He has his sights set on this year’s state championship. Though last year’s tournament will be pretty hard to top.

“It completely changed my life,” Tani says.

Tani wound up with more than just a trophy. His quick rise from novice to champ caught the attention of a reporter from The New York Times. That’s one of the biggest newspapers in the country. When his story appeared in the news, people around the world donated more than $200,000 to help the Adewumis.

But the family didn’t keep any of it. Instead, Tani’s parents used the money to set up an organization to help other refugees like them. Someone who was inspired by Tani’s story even offered to pay the rent on an apartment for a year. Tani finally had a place to call his own!

Now the fourth-grader has a kitchen where his mom cooks his favorite meals. And he has a laptop for practicing chess. He has his sights set on this year’s state championship. Though last year’s tournament will be pretty hard to top.

“It completely changed my life,” Tani says.

1. Why did Tani and his family leave Nigeria?

2. How did playing chess help Tani?

3. How are refugees and immigrants different?

1. Why did Tani and his family leave Nigeria?

2. How did playing chess help Tani?

3. How are refugees and immigrants different?

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