LONG BEACH, NY – Dunia Sibomana became a New York State wrestling champion earlier this month, and her life story is inspiring people across Long Island and beyond. The eighth-grader from Long Beach won the 102-pound Division I championship in Albany on Feb. 13, eight years after narrowly surviving a traumatic animal attack in his native Congo.
Sibomana was attacked by wild chimpanzees when he was six years old while playing near a park and survived with serious facial injuries. Her brother and cousin were killed in the incident. Since emigrating to the United States, he has undergone several surgeries funded by the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids in an attempt to restore speech and swallowing function.
The LI Herald spoke with Sibomana’s adoptive father, Miguel Rodriguez, who is also Long Beach Middle School’s wrestling coach.
“It’s just pure happiness and excitement,” he said.
“He deserves it.”
“Dunia Sibomana could never be counted out! This young man has overcome so many challenges over the years and we are so proud of the champion he has become today.”
The non-profit called the schoolboy “the epitome of a champion, the king of perseverance”.
The nonprofit’s website tells the story of Sibomana being rescued as a young boy and moved to Long Island for medical treatment:
“Dunia is a young boy who lives in the Republic of Congo. He was attacked by a chimpanzee and although he miraculously survived his face was left extremely disfigured. He has lost his upper and lower lips and has many scars on his face. the right side of his face. This has left him with oral incompetence (inability to close his mouth), which makes it extremely difficult for him to eat or drink. At present, he is severely malnourished and does not weighs only 42 lbs.
“He was found by local rangers and referred to the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids for help. We plan to take him to Stony Brook University Hospital for the necessary reconstructive plastic surgery.
We are currently in fundraising/help raising mode, seeking help with fundraising, temporary housing on Long Island, help with transportation to medical visits, clothing donations, and donations in tax-deductible cash.”
Sibomana was orphaned at a young age and was officially adopted by Miguel and Marissa Rodriguez of Long Beach earlier this month, Newsday reported. He recently became a big brother to a little sister named Stella.