Olympic athlete Eloise Wellings is passionate about athletics and helping those in poverty. After realising at the age of 15 that she wanted to make running her career, she committed to training and qualified for the Olympics at the age of 16. Unfortunately soon after qualifying, Eloise suffered a stress fracture, which continued to plague her career for the following decade. Despite this set back, Eloise’s life changed when she became a Christian through a friend at school who supported her throughout this difficult time. Eloise’s personal faith motivates her running career and her humanitarian work in Northern Uganda and her genuine desire to make a difference to the lives of others.
After many years of highs and lows, Eloise has returned to top form after competing at the London Olympics, and three Commonwealth Games, and is on her way to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018. She was the highest placing Australian Olympian at the Rio Olympics, finishing 9th in the 5000m and 10th in the 10,000m track events.
Eloise met Ugandan Olympian and former-child soldier Julius Achon while recovering from a stress fracture before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Eloise was moved by his story of triumph over adversity, and while she didn’t recover in time for the Beijing Olympics, she felt that her troubles were put in perspective by Julius’ life and that the purpose of her trip was to meet Julius.
Eloise is committed to seeing change in Uganda and supporting Julius in his dreams to see his village prosper and overcome the effects of war and poverty. You can read more about her athletic career on her website.
Julius Achon has an inspiring story of hope which continues to unfold. He grew up in the remote village of Awake in Northern Uganda in severe poverty. At the age of 11, he was captured by rebels from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and forced to become a child soldier. He was held captive for 3 months until an opportunity to escape arose when a government plane flew over the LRA camp. Julius escaped but sadly witnessed the murder of 9 of his friends as they ran for their lives. When Julius returned to school, he knew he had athletic talent and so began to run 8 kilometres to and from school each day for training. He was selected to run at the District athletics carnival but could not afford the bus ticket. To avoid missing out on competing, Julius ran 72 kilometres in 4 hours to make the carnival which he went on to win. This was the first of many local successes, which lead to Julius being offered a scholarship to George Mason University in South Carolina. From here, Julius began his professional running career including being flag bearer for Uganda at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
One morning on a routine training run in Uganda, Julius literally stumbled upon 11 orphaned children living in a bus shelter. These children, who had been displaced by Africa's longest running war, were without food, clothing, housing or education, with some of the children unable to remember even their own names. From that day on, Julius took the children in as his own family. It was after this time, when he was struggling to take care of the orphans that he had a chance meeting with Eloise and the seeds for Love Mercy were sown.
Julius’ dreams of seeing his village prosper have begun to take shape with the opening of the Kristina Health Centre in 2012, named after his late mother who was shot and killed by the LRA. Julius lives in Kampala with his wife Grace and two children, where he manages Love Mercy’s operations on the ground.