BOSTON (CBS) — “I was in the hospital for six months alone. That’s where my journey started to come to America.”
Today, Saint Cyr Dimanche is a 23-year-old son of two loving parents in Worcester, studying international relations at Brandeis University. But he traveled a long and difficult road to get to where he is.
After losing his mother in childbirth and his father at the hands of rebels when he was 14, Dimanche escaped from a small village in the Central African Republic to Cameroon. He supported himself by hauling cement, sometimes carrying it up 10 floors, earning $1.80 for 12 hours of hard labor. It eventually became too much for the young boy.
He ended up getting sick, and spent those six months in the hospital. While he was there, a visit from an American couple on a social service mission started the process that would bring him to the US. Dimanche was 17 when he arrived at Logan Aiport, with Bob and Anne Bureau waiting for him.
“We called him our son from the first moment we met him,” said Mr. Bureau. “And he will always be our son. Always.”
“He came through baggage claim and I started crying,” said Mrs. Bureau. “I went up and hugged him.”
Adding a 17-year-old to your family would be a tough task for any family, but it was even harder considering the Bureaus and Dimanche had no way of communicating. Dimanche spoke Sango (a rare African language) and a little bit of French, but he and his new family had no common language. They used iPhones to translate before they found a translator.
Then Dimanche took his next step a few weeks later. After not attending school from 2003-2011, he returned to the classroom.
“It was very hard to go back to school. It was also very hard that I started with a different language,” explained Dimanche. “That was a huge challenge for me.”
But it was a challenge he accepted, and met. Dimanche graduated from high school and is now in his second year at Brandeis. Along the way, he started to run.
“I really enjoy running outside; I enjoy the nature,” he said. “There are so many nice people out there.”
Dimanche entered the Lehigh Valley Marathon in Allentown, Pennsylvania last fall, hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon. He was confident he would after training over the summer, but he hit a bump in the road.
“There was a train that stopped [on the route],” he said.
He was stuck behind a train for almost 10 minutes, which ended his dream of qualifying for Boston. But a donation from an anonymous friend at Brandeis made it possible for Dimanche to join the Red Cross Charity Team.
“I knew the Red Cross before I came to the United States, one of the few organizations I knew,” he said. “Right now, I know some of them may be helping some of my people.”
Dimanche says the hills of Newton aren’t intimidating if you’ve trained on the Worcester hills. And when you’ve come as far as Dimanche has, 26.2 miles isn’t that great of a distance.
“I would say he’s the most resilient person I’ve met,” said Mr. Bureau.
“He’s accomplished so much. I’m happy that he’s happy and he’s content,” said Mrs. Bureau. “And he feels like this is home.”
“I never worry,” said Dimanche. “I just look forward.”
The Bureaus are looking forward to seeing Dimanche cross the start line in Hopkinton on Marathon Monday, and then hope to get as close to the finish line as possible.
Dimanche said he hopes to work in the State Department, helping people in need. He also wants to go back to Africa to find the half-sister he left behind.
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