An eight-year-old Nigerian Christian refugee who fled Boko Haram is now the New York State chess champion for his age bracket. Incredibly, Tani only began learning chess about a year ago after his family left northern Nigeria in 2017 to escape Boko Haram's attacks on Christians.
Tani, his parents, and siblings moved into a homeless shelter when they arrived in America and have been homeless ever since. Tani attends Manhattan’s P.S. 116 elementary school and joined the chess club. His teacher waived the costly chess club fees after seeing Tani’s talent.
Tani learned chess only a bit more than a year ago. His play has skyrocketed month by month, and he now has seven trophies by his bed in the homeless shelter.
He went undefeated at the state tournament last weekend, outwitting children from elite private schools with private chess tutors.
Before the competition, Tani’s mother took him to free practice sessions in Harlem and allowed him to practice the game online.
Now, he’s preparing for the elementary national championship in May and spends hours on the homeless shelter floor practicing.
Meanwhile, his parents are working just as hard.
Tani’s father rents a car that he uses to drive Uber, and he recently became a licensed real estate salesman. His mother is learning English and just passed a course to become an in-home health aide.
Through it all, Tani’s family is still navigating the immigration system and a hearing for their asylum request is scheduled for August.
After the Times shared Tani’s story, thousands of people gave donations, raising more than $14,000 to help his family get a home.
You can donate here