The mission has been accomplished for runner Themba Mathebula who 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 and ran to his place of birth, Bushbuckridge in Mpumalanga.
“The run was at times gruelling because of the hot sun, but it was all worth it,” said a delighted Mathebula.
According to Mathebula, who is a seasoned runner and a member of the Irene Athletics Clubs, giving back to the community he comes from has been his lifelong dream. He said 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 sanitary pads for a year.
Mathebula said that by Wednesday, the 16th of December, 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 and said 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. Research has shown that underprivileged girls can miss up to 50 days of school per year due to lack of access to feminine hygiene products. I am a rural boy and I went back home to help,” he said.
Mathebula explained that the run went without glitches and that 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. He said many of these towns’ runners had run part of the way with him in solidarity.
“But the most touching moment was when I entered the rural village where I was born in Bushbuckridge. As I turned from the tar road on to 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,” said Mathebula.
While he had needed some physiotherapy along the way, Mathebula said the only issue he had was with his hands, which were sunburnt. 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 will have sanitary pads for a year.