It has been a bit calm around WhizzKids United the last month, but does that mean nothing is happening here in Durban and Edendale? Absolutely not! It has been rather calm because I have been in Australia running the Sydney Marathon to raise funds for WKU and everybody else was too busy to post anything on Facebook or write something on this blog. But now I am back and you can be sure to get all the information you deserve.
October is the month when we are celebrating Africaid's 10th birthday and also Marcus' 10th anniversary in Africa. That's right, it has been 10 years since Marcus left London to move to Ghana and further to South Africa. It has been a great journey and more importantly, it has been a life saving journey for thousands of young peope across this beautiful continent. Yesterday, we came together at the Health Academy to start a month of celebration. A month to remember Marcus' and Africaid's great achievements over the last decade. Marcus has plenty of stories to share with you and we will also hear what some of the people have to say, who supported us over the years. But for now, check out our Facebook page for some great photos from yesterday's celebrations at the Health Academy.
October is also a month of change for our organisation - staff changes to be precise. We sadly had to say goodbye to Flo and Johanna last month, who have finished their voluntary services with us. Both had spent eleven months in South Africa. Also Busi left the Health Academy a few weeks ago to move to Durban.
The new head nurse of the Health Academy is Ntokozo. She had been with us before, then moved on to Edendale Hospital and now she is back at the Health Academy. We are more than happy to have her back.
We are also welcoming six (!) new volunteers in October. The first two have already arrived - Alex Abed from Barbados and Jonny Sasati from Turkey. Both will stay with us until next year. Tomorrow, we are expecting Markus Bensch and Julia Horvath to arrive from Germany. They will stay with us for one year. And later this month we have two new volunteers coming from the UK, Alice Ford and Ben Edwards. We are keeping our team young, fresh and multi-cultural!
You can be sure to hear from all our new staff at some point here on this blog.
Cheers everyone and make sure to celebrate 10 years of Africaid with us - wherever you are in the world.
There are two things in the world that make you feel really good. One is achieving a goal for which you have worked very hard. The other is helping kids who need support because they are living in very poor circumstances. Now imagine you can have both feelings at the same time. That is what happened to me.
On 16 September I participated (and finished!) in the Sydney Marathon and raised over ZAR 7000 ($1000 USD) for WhizzKids United and the great work we are doing in Edendale.
Some of you might still remember that I started running marathons last year in Berlin, Germany. Back then I wanted to prove to myself that I can do it. I like having these goals in life that help me explore where my limits are and maybe push them a little further. So I participated in Berlin and finished in a decent 4:42 hours, which was okay, seeing that I suffered from a major knee injury before the run. What I didn’t expect then was that running long distance races can be addictive. And so the logical thing to do was, run another one – this time in Sydney, Australia.
Why Sydney? Simply because I was looking for a location I had never been to before. Strangely enough I discovered marathon running as a very interesting way of sightseeing. It is unbelievable how you can explore a city when you run it for 42,195 meters (or several hours). I know some of you may disagree with me on that one and say that the red double-decker buses make you see just as much, but it is just not the same way to experience a place – you would miss out on all the emotions and excitement. So Sydney with its iconic Harbour Bridge and the world famous Opera House made it to the top of my list. I did not regret this choice one single moment!
Like mentioned before, I love challenges. I find they give you more purpose in life. Setting yourself a goal that seems very difficult to reach in the first place, but then working hard and persistently until you achieve you reach it, makes life meaningful.
If you haven’t done it yourself, you will never be able to understand all the emotions you are going through during a marathon race. It already starts during all the months of training that you have to put in. It takes a lot of discipline to stick to your training schedule and even after long working days you have to get on the road and do all the training kilometers (I did just under 900km in preparation for Sydney). Being lazy for one week can set you back so much in your preparations. Neither rain nor heat must be an excuse for skipping a training session. And you have to do this week in and week out.
But the real challenge, of course, comes on the race day. The excitement in the morning was very, very high. Together with thousands of other runners I waited at the starting area, drank another cup of water to make sure the hydration level was just fine, did another warm-up jog and had a chat with my fellow runners, trying to find people with the same target time to form a group. When the long anticipated run started I want to find my rhythm as quickly as possible and make sure not to over-pace the first kilometers, even though my legs were feeling so strong.
I felt awesome on the first kilometers and had a great speed. Easily, I kept up with the pacemakers and the feeling of “nothing can stop me now” started growing in me. That lasted for about 25 kilometers and then came the heat. It is incredible how warm Sydney can become within a few hours, when you approach midday. And with the heat everything changed. My legs got tired, I had to reduce my pace quite a bit and on top of everything the race profile was much more difficult on the second half. Did I mention that I always have the feeling that the last 21km are much longer than the first 21km?
At some point I had forgotten about all the other runners around me. It was just me and the road, trying to run my very own race. And that is where the crazy mix of emotions started. The run became painful and I asked myself why I was doing this to myself – again. Did I expect too much from me? Have I been too ambitious to run a marathon again and to hope for a better time? No, it was not. I knew that I could do it, because I had done this before. And I knew I could do it better than last time, because I had worked harder for this. Despite all the pain that I felt and the slight misery I went through, I always knew that I was going to finish this race in a good time. Giving up never even crossed my mind. (Just imagine all the people’s comments on facebook when you don’t finish it).
I had learnt from Berlin’s marathon a year ago and was able to slow down at the right time and recover while running. After I had adjusted to the warmer temperatures, I was even able to get back to my initial pace and finish the race over 25 minutes faster than I did the previous year – what a great personal success. Even those pesky climbs that the race planners had put in at kilometer 32 and 37 (they should be punished for that) could not stop me.
The last four kilometers were just unbelievable then. I think I never had a bigger smile in my face because I could literally feel the finish line coming closer. And there were all the thousands of supporters on the side of the road that cheered like crazy and gave me that extra push. It felt so good. When I then turned into the Sydney Harbour, with the Opera House shining on the other side, there was no doubt anymore that all the hard work had finally paid off and it was worth all the pain and every single emotion. I must say there are very few places in the world that make a similarly impressive finish like the Sydney Opera House – truly magnificent.
I crossed the finish after 4 hours, 15 minutes and 25 seconds – a lot faster than 12 months ago. And I am not able to find words than can describe what I felt when I stepped over that line. It was just lifting my arms in victory and smiling nonstop. There were about 2000 runners faster than me (the winner reached the finish about two hours before me), but I still felt like I had just won a gold medal at the Olympics; and I am sure everyone who reached the finish on that day felt exactly like that and deserved it!
At the same time there was this wonderful feeling that with my personal accomplishment I managed to raise money for WhizzKids United and help the kids in South Africa. This makes the whole mission even more worthwhile and I am glad that in a special way all these boys and girls can benefit from my hard work and running as well.
I want to express my sincere appreciation to everybody who has contributed to my fundraising campaign with their donations. Believe me when I say that your support – big or small - does make a difference in kids’ lives and everyone at WhizzKids United is very happy and proud to have committed supporters like you. Thank you very, very much!
Now that it is all over there remains one question for me: What’s next? Where will I run my next marathon? There is certainly no doubt that Sydney has not been the last one – after all I am addicted to running!
PS: If you still want to make your contribution and support my run, please click on the link below where you can make your donation.
You may not know me but my name is Stefan Kunze. I am a 28 year old German and I work for an incredible organisation in South Africa called WhizzKids United (WKU) that uses the power of football to help fight HIV and AIDS among young people. I manage the Programmes Team and get to travel all over the country implementing life saving programmes. I am truly passionate about this work ...
This year I am running my first marathon, the Berlin Marathon, and will be raising funds for WKU along the way. We believe that working together we can do more so I am recruiting an international team of citizen activists who are running the Berlin Marathon to help me. Together I hope that we can raise 4000 Euros. If I recruit 10 people, that means 400 Euro each. If I recruit 20 people, that means 200 Euro each. The more activists join me, the easier it will be to reach our collective target !!!
So how can we do it? It's actually very easy. WKU is linked to an online giving page called givengain.com which aims to link activists like us to causes like WKU. All you have to do is:
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can catch me on skype, my name is der_steps. I will keep you informed every step of the way as we go on this journey together.
Two of our Life Skills trainers in Rustenburg, Elsie and Moeketsi, took some time this week to give you a little insight into their work and tell you about the experience they had with WhizzKids United:
For the first day when we started the programme it was little difficult because it was something new to the learners as well as the teachers. Up until we explained to them that the aim of the programme is to teach life skills compared to football skills. We explained that, the reason why we chose football is because football is understood by many people and it is the game where goals should be set in order to win which in life is to set goals in order to achieve at last. In this manner they began to understand and things started to be easy for both learners, teachers and us as well. Now the programme seems fun and empowering at the same time. Thanks to you guys.