South Africa, Pretoria – Pretoria runner Themba Mathebula has completed more than 450km to raise funds so that learners can start the new academic year with school shoes and sanitary pads.
Mathebula started his journey 12 days ago in Pretoria. He ran to his place of birth – Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga. The run was at times strenuous because of the hot sun, but it was all worth it, a delighted Mathebula said.
Giving back to the community from where he came has been a lifelong dream of this seasoned runner and member of the Irene Athletics Club.
The aim of his BackaBuddy project was to raise money to be able to supply learners in 14 schools with new shoes and to supply girls with a year’s supply of sanitary pads.
Mathebula said that by yesterday they had received R90 000 in cash as well as more than R20 000 worth of school shoes and sanitary pads.
Mathebula grew up in Bushbuckridge. He knows what it is like to go to school without shoes.
“One day, while running, it hit me that my running shoes enabled me to run comfortably and finish a race. For most schoolchildren, however, it is difficult for a young boy or girl to move forward without shoes.”
He also said research has shown that underprivileged girls can miss up to 50 days a year of school due to lack of access to feminine hygiene products.
“I am a rural boy and I went back home to help.”
Mathebula said the run mostly went without glitches and his brother Lennox ran with him to keep him company. It was also amazing to have had so much support from the communities in the small towns he passed through. Many of these town runners had run part of the way with him in solidarity.
But the most touching moment had been when he entered the rural village where he was born in Bushbuckridge. “As I turned from the tar road onto the dirt road, I saw people lining the path. Some ran to make the finishing line with me. They said they appreciated what I was doing and it was truly moving.”
While he had needed some physiotherapy along the way, Mathebula said the only issue he had was with his hands, which were badly burnt from the harsh sun.
He will spend Christmas with his family in Pretoria before returning to Bushbuckridge in the new year to start distributing the shoes and sanitary pads. He said that by the time schools reopened on January 25, hundreds of needy learners there will have a new pair of shoes and the girls their sanitary pads for a year.