Whilst reading one of Nick Vujicic’s motivational books, “Life without limits: Inspiration for a ridiculously good life,” I was utterly moved by the following words:
“When you are confronted with hard times, tragedies or challenges instead of looking inward, look to those around you. Instead of feeling wounded and seeking pity, find someone with greater wounds and help them heal. Understand that your grief or pain is legitimate, but suffering is part of the human condition, and reaching out to someone else is a way of healing yourself while helping others heal too.”
These words could not have resonated with me at a better time in my life, and are now the inspiration for my daily living.
A few weeks ago, I spent some time volunteering with an organisation, The Hide Community Trust, which runs alongside The Hide, a safari lodge in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe that my late grandfather started 24 years ago. This non-profit organisation along with the African Bush Camps Foundation and a few others was part of an event, a 10km fun run, held by ‘The Jane Bubear Sports Foundation’ on the 30th of April. It has been an annual event, much anticipated in the town and surrounding areas, since 2009 and what an incredible experience it was to have been a part of it this year. This experience is one that I would like to share with you.
First, a little bit of background history for you: Dete is a town on the outskirts of the Hwange National park (arguably made famous due to the mighty “Cecil” the lion who roamed here), about an hour and a half drive from Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world. This area, among many in Zimbabwe, is poverty stricken; access to water, health care, education and equality is hardly obtainable. I could go on and on about the difficulties and challenges that the community experience but I’d like to focus on the fact that despite this, the local people are some of the most joyous, humble, grateful and self-sustaining individuals I have ever met. This fun run is an opportunity to unite the community, celebrate life through passion for sport and to just simply have fun in times of everyday struggle.
I decided to put all expectations of this event aside. Following a 5.00 am wake up, we drove out of the national park into Dete, just as the sun was beginning to rise. Now, if you haven’t experienced an African sunrise or sunset I stand by the belief that nothing in the world can beat it. Pastel colours of blue, pink, orange and purple subtly lit up the morning sky. There was a chatter that could be heard all through the town. Two young white girls driving down the dirt roads must be quite a sight for the locals, and all along the drive little children ran alongside our vehicle with a smile that lit up their faces, shouting “makiwa, makiwa” (white person, white person) as they did so.
As we arrived at the venue, a local secondary school, I was utterly surprised by the vast number of people! More than 1000 people arrived to compete in the race and probably another 400 people were on the sidelines spectating and supporting. This turn out was made possible by the provision of transport to school children and villagers from all the surrounding areas of Dete. It was such a vibrant and cheerful atmosphere; from young children to grannies and grandpas and everyone in-between, what a diverse scene it was! Competitive runner or not, this race was for everyone.
First up was the children’s 2km race. I presume it was some of their first times participating too as the anticipation and nerves were very evident on their faces. 3… 2… 1… GO… and they were off.
All that could be seen was a flash and blur of colour as they all took off in an excited and competitive streak. Just after taking this photograph, a little girl of about 3, who was completely overwhelmed by the rush, darted towards me with her hands reaching out for me to lift her into the safety of my embrace. In seconds, as our heads turned to follow the crowd, all that was left was a cloud of dust and the sound of laughter and cheerful chatter as the children rounded the corner.
Now it was time for the main race; the adults 10km. At this point, Christabelle (the amazing, dedicated and passionate young woman who runs The Hide Community Trust), and I were going to chicken out. Even though we are both sporty girls, the thought of a 10km run that day wasn’t inciting enough to convince us that we should partake. Something then dawned on me; there I was standing in my running gear with my trainers on. When I looked around me, many of the participants did not have ANY shoes, let alone trainers on. They were running in whatever clothes they owned, be that dresses, jeans, skirts or trousers and this did not stop them. What reason did I have to not partake. A reality check kicked in and soon after, we joined the back of the crowd and began to run.
Throughout the race, I was overwhelmed by the inexplicable joy and camaraderie expressed by the community. I ran alongside different people, who each inspired me. The cheering from fellow participants and supporters along the sideline was warmly encouraging. Running down the final stretch of the race, I had this surprising feeling that I didn’t want the race to end.
At the finish line, all competitors received an event t-shirt, which everyone put on with such pride. I have to admit that I was pretty proud of myself for completing that race and deserving the t-shirt too. Everyone was united in the final ceremony where the grounds were brought to life with singing and dancing alongside a local performing group, Ingonyama. Following that, a gentleman from the UK brought about a complete cultural exchange by playing his bagpipes. This is something that will stick with me for life. I attended a boarding school in South Africa that had Scottish roots and then attended university in Edinburgh, Scotland for a year, so the sound of the bagpipes was one that I am accustomed to and one that I love. I realised that I had taken this for granted as I looked around and saw the shocked and confused faces of the locals amidst absolute silence. They were absolutely gobsmacked at the sight of a man wearing a skirt (kilt), playing this strange looking instrument that he held under his arm. The expressions were priceless!
Now it was time for the awards ceremony. These trophies for the division winners stood out in the barren surroundings. The trophies were lifted and medals were worn around the winners necks with such pride and happiness that seemed to put a smile on each and everyones faces. Food parcels were given to the veterans that competed and were received with such gratitude due to the tough food shortages being experienced in Zimbabwe. Martin and Hilary, who were representing the Jane Bubear Sports Foundation, are both keen runners with injuries that did not allow them to run this year, however, they cycled the race along with all the competitors. These two bicycles were then raffled off in the prize giving and were the perfect end to a truly remarkable event.
It was such an honour to be a part of this memorable event and one that I will cherish. As cliche as it may sound, I feel humbled by the experience. It really put things into perspective for me and has given me a different outlook on life.