Struggling Kenyan student says thanks but declines offer of donations

Photo courtesy of Thomas Muli

TAIPEI (CNA) — A Kenyan student, who had been funding his language studies in Taiwan with cash prizes won in road races, on Sunday declined an offer by members of the public to raise funds for him after his source of income dried up due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thomas Muli, 36, who has taking Chinese language classes at National United University in Miaoli since 2018, said he now sells Taiwan-made socks to make ends meet, as major athletics events are no longer being held.

Before COVID-19 changed everything, Muli said, he had been earning prize money in road races, enough to pay his tuition and rent, meet his daily needs, and even send home to his family in Kenya.

In 2019, Muli won both the Taichung Shengang Marathon and Sun Moon Lake Marathon in Nantou. Since the pandemic started in late 2019, however, all such races have either been canceled or postponed in Taiwan.

In desperation, Muli began selling socks in June at Zhunan Sports Park Miaoli County, an activity that he says he loves because of the face-to-face interaction with people.

Muli said he chose the Taiwan-made socks because they are very comfortable for runners.

His story was recently picked up by the local media, which helped boost his sock sales, and people began offering to start some online fundraising for him, he said.

Muli said, however, that while he is grateful for the kindness and enthusiasm of the Taiwanese people in his time of hardship, he would prefer not to accept any donations, as he is earning enough from the sock sales to support himself for the time being.

With COVID-19 showing signs of abating in Taiwan, road running events are expected to resume soon, Muli said, adding that he will back on his feet before long.