THE CAPE FLATS, about 30 kms outside Cape Town in South Africa, is a sandy, urban wasteland. It was where people of colour evicted from the city centre in the 1970’s by the white apartheid government were forcibly moved.
Today the Cape Flats houses over 2 million people, and has inherited all the socio-economic ills of an inner-city ghetto. Young men idle on graffiti-ridden tenement corners. Unemployment is nearly 40%, alcohol and drug-addiction are widespread, crime is rife and gangs rule.
But one enthusiastic, never-say-die school teacher at Rocklands High School on the Cape Flats has chosen to rise above these socio-economic circumstances.
Irafaan Abrahams, himself a child of the “Flats” – and a community activist, radio broadcaster and sports fanatic – completed the New York Marathon,Chicago Marathon and Amsterdam marathon last year to raise funds for underpriviledged schools.
His initial idea was to explore ways of meeting expenses to complete a curriculum centre at Rocklands High, but he realised that Rocklands High wasn’t the only school in Cape Town in need of extra resources.
He called his idea the “New York Marathon Million Rand Challenge” and his goal was to encourage the cash-strapped schools to sponsor each kilometre of his marathon for their fund raising projects.
In 2011,the “New York Million Rand Challenge” raised over 30,000 dollars (R250 000)in one of the most impoverished areas in Cape Town. Then eclipsing all expectations,the 2012 “Chicago Million Rand Challenge” raked in a whopping R360 000.
If that was seen as being successful ,then the Amsterdam marathon challenge was phenomenal.It surpassed all expectations by raising R460 000 and in achieving this, realised the dream of raising a R1 000 000 for education!!!
This year Irafaan has set himself another challenge; to run the prestigious London Marathon to raise funds in the same fashion as New York and
Chicago – local schools are given collection sheets with each kilometre of the marathon worth an affordable R5 (85 US cents).
Besides raising funds for needy schools,every year he chooses to help a beneficiary ;2011 BEITUL-AMAAN OLD AGE HOME(R45 0000; 2012 CANCERVIVE and AMA BELE BELLES(R25 000) 2013 GLENDALE HIGH (R20 000). LOFOB(blind school) have been approached to be this year’s beneficiary.
Irafaan, who runs a Social Club to get youngsters involved in sports and social issues, feels that his entering the marathon raises awareness about the psychic healing that running can offer to youth, and how extra-mural activities such as running contribute to calming those with disciplinary problems.
Already,a number of young kids have benefitted from what he calls a “legacy project”, where kids are assisted in participating in cross-country events and kept off the streets.
Irafaan, whose bubbly personality and determination have inspired thousands of students in his 19-year career as an educator, has won kudos from his colleagues and the South African Education Minister, and was featured on E-TV, a national channel, as an educator making a difference and honoured as”A SOUTH AFRICAN TEACHING HERO”.
“I’M JUST AN ORDINARY TEACHER TRYING TO DO SOMETHING EXTRA-ORDINARY”-Irafaan Abrahams