Last year, 10 strangers, determined to challenge the general perception of disability, embarked on a 10-day journey from Cape Town to Pretoria, covering 1 800km in a 24-hour, non-stop relay.
The success of the team, made up of eight able-bodied people and two disabled people who hand-cycled during the journey, was celebrated on Thursday January 26, at Arcade restaurant in Bree Street.
A short-film of last year’s journey was also screened at the event.
The new team which will take on the journey this year is made up of 12 able-bodied and disabled people from all over Cape Town, and this time they will be embarking on a
2 000km run on a different route, which will also end up in Pretoria.
The Journey for Change is organised by OCAL Global, a CBD-based non-profit organisation which aims to empower “differently-abled” people and challenges the perception of disabled people.
Nicolene Mostert, the founder of OCAL Global, said the organisation is just under a year old, but they are already in the process of organising the next journey.
“We have come so far and it is so exciting.”
Ms Mostert said disability was something “people create within themselves that disables you from living a life that’s whole and that’s full and that’s meaningful”.
“We don’t need to feel a sense of pity towards people who are differently-abled.
“They just want to be treated equally like all of us and you can still have a normal and meaningful and active life, full of adventure and amazing moments, just in your differently-abled body.”
The team of 12 will be split into a day crew and night crew, each running for 12-hour “shifts”.
Each team has a disabled person who will be hand-cycling their part of the tour.
A mini-van will be driving along the road with them to help when needed, and to take in a team member when they get tired and replace them with another one. This way the journey goes on for 10 days non-stop.
Sandile Mkhize, who will be the hand-cyclist for the day team, said he became wheel-chair bound four years ago after a motor bike accident.
“I want to point out that this could happen to anyone, anytime. I wasn’t always this way.
“We need to start a very important conversation and work towards changing people’s mindset when it comes to disability.”
Bjourn Bergins, a Green Point resident who will also participate in the challenge on the night team, said he got involved after Ms Mostert, whom he has been friends with for a while, invited him to participate.
“I’ve always wanted to get involved in something epic that makes a difference. So when Nicolene told me about the Journey for Change, I was happy to take part.”
He said while it was daunting, the fact that it was a team effort made him feel a bit better. “I’m nervous, but it is very rewarding to be part of this challenge.”
Catherine van Straten, who will also be hand-cycling, said she saw last year’s journey and it looked like an amazing thing to be part of. “I like to push myself and take on new challenges, but I don’t really know what to expect from this one.”
She said she also works for a disability charity called CBM, which is fitting with the OCAL Global’s cause.
“Disability is my life and what OCAL stands for is what I believe in,” she said.
Apart from creating awareness about disability, the Journey for Change is raising funds to build an indoor sports centre for the Tembaletu school for learners with special needs (LSEN) in Gugulethu.
Ms Mostert said the project would be completed in two phases – the first making a sandy field at the school more accessible for children with wheelchairs, and the second the construction of an indoor sports centre and sporting equipment for the children.
Some of the runners from last year’s challenge came out in support of the cause and this year’s team. Chris Geils and John Montanari, who completed last year’s challenge, shared their experiences with the CapeTowner. “We ran from 10pm to 4am at night with temperatures between -4 and 6 degrees. It was bad in Southerland. Some of us did 10km and others did 20km throughout the night,” said Mr Montanari. Mr Geils said he first got involved with OCAL after he was part of the Alzheimer’s Memorial Challenge in 2013 and connected with Ms Mostert. “(A total of) 1 800 km between the 12 of us, it was an amazing experience.”
Mr Montanari added: “We basically just saw darkness for 10 days, jumping over snakes and running from foxes. It’s so dark and quiet and your mind starts playing tricks on you. One time I was running from what I thought was a wolf, but it was just a bush.”
Mr Geils said it had been an eye-opener to see what able-bodied people took for granted.
“To see the disabled people take on this challenge and not shy away from it was incredible. And you form bonds, because your team is basically all you see for 10 days.”
Mr Montanari said a challenge for him was pulling the hand cyclists through terrains that they could not cycle on. “We literally pulled them with rope through the sand, and also helped Benni (Erasmus) in and out of the camper. It was hectic, and it was cold, but it builds team work.”
This year’s Journey for Change will start on Thursday April **DATE??**. The team members will finish their run in the Wings for Life World Run on Sunday May 7,at Supersport Park in Pretoria, running for those who can’t.
For more information or to get involved, visit www.ocalglobal.com
*Still waiting for some info from Nicolene about funds*