Community & Non-Profit

Paying it Forward – Education with a Difference

Since starting to work with Groenvlei HS in October 2019, the relationship I have with the school had deepened significantly. Even though my interactions Mr GA (the deputy principal) were usually short (either on the phone or when I visited the school for some admin thing), they were always deeply energising for both of us. He had since found out that I had done Ironman and I was an author, and he was keen to use me wherever he could to inspire the learners. I, on the other hand, was happy to oblige because as I’ve said before…working with youth was one of my favourite things to do and I also happen to be really good at it.

When Mr GA called me up in mid-December to tell me about the cycle challenge that the Ari’s Angels were going to embark on in February and to request my assistance with preparing them, I wasn’t sure what my contribution would look like, but I immediately said YES!

The learners, many of them who had only learned to cycle a few months before, were going to do a 450km off-road cycle from Suurbrak to Cape Town to raise funds for cancer awareness and to benefit the areas they passed through. After thinking about it, I suggested I do a half-day mental preparation workshop with the learners.

I called my friend Fareed up and asked him if he would like to collaborate with me on it, and his answer was an immediate YES, of course I am in! Fareed and I had started working together on community projects that year, and we worked incredibly well together. He could draw on my many years of experience working on community projects and youth development, and I gained a lot from his professional project management approach. We had already planned to collaborate on more formalised things soon, so I saw this as an opportunity to rope him in on something where I knew he could add immense value because he is also an endurance sportsperson.

It didn’t take us long to put together a 3hr workshop. One meeting with a small table and a whiteboard, and we had brainstormed the thing and pitched it to Mr GA right there and then on the phone while still in front of the whiteboard. Mr GA was ecstatic about it, so we proceeded to schedule it for 27 December and to formulate a slide deck that would guide the morning. We covered things such as:

  • Finding your WHY and Personal Strength
  • Empowering through Body Language
  • Risk Management & Communication
  • Getting out of the Hole
  • And a few other topics

In hindsight, 3hrs was too short to do those topics justice and it should have been a longer session. But we learned a lot for future and it was a good way to test something that could even be formulated as an absolutely kick-ass professional workshop. It was so much fun to do the workshop. The term kakking off was used an awful lot and is now the team’s favourite words 😅. The feedback form gave us great insights into what the participants enjoyed, and it was clear that they received a lot more value than they had expected.

As a bonus, we also created short 1-min video messages from us that the management team could play to the cyclists at the end of each section of the journey, so that we could be there with them even though we weren’t physically present. It was going to be a long and gruelling challenge and we wanted to pull out all the stops to help them through it.

Shooting and editing videos

Once again this was not hard to do since Fareed has a pretty professional setup in his home office due to him having run an award winning blog, Leave the Couch, for many years. We did all the shooting, editing, and sending it away on one short evening after work.

What is the biggest lesson that I want to share with you from this story?

We are privileged in many ways. Often we take the opportunities we have for granted. But it is a privilege to be able to run in mountains, to do ultramarathons, to do Ironman races. And with that comes experience. It is not a coincidence that people refer to it as wealth of experience. It is wealth, and it can be shared. Don’t ever underestimate how the experiences you’ve had can help others.

We need to use our privilege for good.

Both Fareed and I have completed physical challenges that go beyond what people may see as normal. We’ve had successes and we’ve had failures. We’ve crossed finish lines in glory and we have *DNF’ed at major races. That comes with it experience that can be passed on to someone who can learn from the experience without having to go through it themselves.

It is important that young people see people who look like them, who come from their communities, and who have the same challenges as they do, do incredible and amazing things. That is when it becomes possible and within reach. So if you have a gift and you are able to share it, consider doing so. Even if it is just helping one person at a time, that will create a ripple that can continue to grow because that person can help one more. And I promise you it is so incredibly rewarding to be part of something that is bigger than you.

Here’s an article on IOL that covered the cycle challenge in February.

*DNF – stands for “did not finish”, and refers to when you started a race and didn’t finish

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