Donald Snyder, Special Correspondent, NBC News

Semegnew Molla Hodes was in constant pain, and his twisted back slow800px-US_Navy_080112-N-8077G-632_Seaman_Stanise_Murphy_stands_the_lookout_watch_aboard_the_amphibious_dock_landing_ship_USS_Germantown_(LSD_42)ed his breathing. Still, he was determined to reach Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, approximately 200 miles from his rural village. He had embarked on this long walk, expecting to hitch occasional rides, because poverty and lack of medical care in his village offered no hope.

“I followed my feet and hoped they would take me there,” the soft-spoken young man said in a recent phone interview.

He was 12 years old when, destitute and crippled, he found his way to the Mother Teresa Center in Addis Ababa. Now, 12 years later and half a world away, that desperate boy has become a man — and the owner of a degree in chemistry from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. as of his graduation on May 9.


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