My #DesertRun4NMCH – Using Sport to Give Back

Many South Africans are using their participation in sporting activities from running marathons to climbing mountains to raise awareness and funds for social causes and to make a difference in society. Supported by the reach and popularity of social media as well as crowdfunding platforms, these initiatives have the increased potential to influence meaningful change.

Combining my passion for extreme desert running with philanthropy and raising awareness for social causes, I will be running 250 kilometres as part of the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM) from 20-26 October 2018 to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH). The race takes place in the Kalahari Desert in the proximity of the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River.

Inspired by Madiba’s love for children, and built in honour of his legacy, NMCH is a world-class tertiary specialist referral paediatric hospital based in Parktown, Johannesburg. The 200-bed facility is only the second dedicated children’s hospital in Southern Africa and admitted its first patients in June 2017.

NMCH has already treated over 1 000 children in need of surgical and life-saving interventions as a result of complex illnesses and continues to phase in operations. The hospital is committed to rendering exceptional service to all children of Southern Africa and no child, regardless of socio-economic circumstances, who is appropriately referred to the facility is turned away.

I have always loved sport – as a participant and fan – and in 2010 I discovered the crazy sport of desert running.

There is something unique to running self-supported and in extreme conditions in remote corners of the world such as the Sahara, Gobi, Atacama, and Antarctica, covering distances of a marathon or more on four or five consecutive days. It is a tough and often painful experience but making it to the finish line is a fantastic feeling and deeply satisfying.

However, my participation in these races has always been about more than just overcoming the physical and mental challenges associated with these events.  I have worked with NGOs and other entities involved with development and social justice efforts in Africa for the past 25 years. My desert running adventures therefore provide me with an opportunity to support organisations of interest to me and to make a difference.

I have used my desert runs in the recent past to support the work of organisations such as the ONE Campaign in Africa, Greenpeace Africa, The Sunflower Fund and the END Fund, covering a diverse range of issues such as poverty, climate change, leukaemia and the fight against neglected tropical diseases.

South Africa boasts thousands of “charity champions” – people such as Saray Khumalo, Dean Wight and Andrew Patterson, to name a few, with incredible stories of endurance, sacrifice and commitment to helping others and doing good.

But not everyone can or has to run a marathon or climb a mountain to support a good cause or make a difference in society. By developing an interest in the issues facing our local communities, and finding out which organisations are active around us, it becomes easier to determine who or what requires support and where to best channel our efforts.

As former president Mandela once said, “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

As part of my participation in the KAEM, and in support of Madiba’s legacy, I aim to raise R250 000 for NMCH to enable more children to benefit from the hospital.

It only requires 2 500 people to donate a minimum of R100 each to reach this target, and I’m challenging all South Africans to support this important campaign and the work of NMCH.

As a public benefit organisation, the hospital has a unique funding model as it only receives operational funding from the government to treat public patients and independently fundraises to support its capital expenses. As a result, it requires ongoing public support to expand and sustain its services.

Running 250 kilometres through the Kalahari Desert in extreme heat and sand will be a tough challenge, but I’m inspired by this cause and the belief that together we can achieve this target. Nothing will give me greater pleasure than honouring Madiba’s legacy and centennial birthday in this manner.

My fundraising campaign will run from 10 October to 27 November 2018, to coincide with Giving Tuesday, an annual global initiative aimed at encouraging social giving.

Click here to make a donation and follow my campaign on social media via #DesertRun4NMCH.

David Barnard is the first African to have completed a multi-stage desert race on all seven continents. He boasts an extensive background in civil society and worked on development programmes across Africa.

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