21.1km for an Education
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
— William Ernest Henley
Henley’s well-known poem “Invictus” bears a special significance in South African lore. In 1995, the newly elected Mandela used the treatise on self-reliance to inspire the captain of the South African rugby team to lead the Springboks to a world cup victory over the heavily favored All Blacks and assuage anxieties among the white populace. Ever since, the episode has been cited as a true example of classic Mandela charm and skillful governance.
I have found real inspiration in the poem, too, and taken it to heart. Last week, I logged 12km in about 1:10 on a dirt road that bisects the main artery through my region. It was a new personal best; I had Henley’s verses cycling through my head the whole time. Unfortunately, it’s also only half the distance I’ll be tackling in the Longtom Marathon come this March, so I still have some work to do.
Some background: the Longtom marathon is actually a half- and an ultra-marathon. I’m undertaking the half, which is 21.1km. The marathon will be held this March 27 in Sabie, Mpumalanga Province, not too far from Kruger. It starts at the top of the Longtom Pass – a beautiful stretch of South African countryside with picturesque views all around – and goes downhill most of the way into Lydenburg. Many Peace Corps volunteers will be taking part, typically over 70, so it’s the closest thing to an All-Volunteer Conference for PCSA. It’s a good way to meet other PCVs, share ideas and stories, and I’m told the post-run celebrations are a gas.
The main reason for participating, however, is to support the Kgwale le Mollo (KLM) Foundation. KLM is a non-profit started in 2004 by two SA-11 (I’m in SA22) PCVs to bring high quality education to young students who show exceptional potential but live in rural areas of South Africa where access to high quality education is basically nonexistent. Each year the foundation grants a 5-year scholarship to two 8th grade students to attend one of South Africa’s premier high schools, Upplands College, in Nelspruit. To date there have been 8 KLM scholars and Upplands has found the program to be so successful they’ve started offering their own scholarships. As part of the scholarship the students are required to compete a Home Investment Project during their junior and senior years to give back and build the community they came from. In this way KLM doesn’t just help train students from rural South Africa to become part the next generation of African leaders, but also bring much needed talent and experiences into the rural areas from people who know it best, those that grew up there.
If you’ve been following this blog you’re probably a little aware of the condition of education in South Africa. Imagine an old hospital: designed to help people, structurally still there, but lacking modern equipment, information, and educated practitioners. It survives because it’s better than nothing but does little to address endemic problems or treat new crises. It’s a temporary stopgap turned permanent and it’s failing the people with all haste. The KLM foundation offers a unique solution to that problem by educating students with great potential who happened to be born in a place where local education wouldn’t let them reach that potential.
In order to raise money for this scholarship the KLM Foundation has teamed up with the annual Longtom marathon, and this is where you come in: I would love it if you could help sponsor me by donating to the KLM Foundation in my name. Donations can be done through a secure web form on the Foundation’s website (when you click the Donations photo at the top-right of the page, your browser will likely ask you if you want to see the popup, this happens because the KLM site sends you to a site to securely handle any financial data). Make sure to put my name in the box where it asks for the Longtom runner you want to sponsor. You can also sponsor me by snail mail (see details below). Please give what you can. It doesn’t have to be much, $5, $10 and $20 donations add up and you’ll be providing a child in rural South Africa with the gift of a lifetime: an education (plus its tax-detectable!).
The online donation is preferable, but if you need to mail in a check, please make it payable to “Kgwale Le Mollo (US)” and send it to:
KLM Foundation (US)
c/o Bowen Hsu
461 So. Bonita Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91107
Please make sure to include a note that your donation is on my behalf.
Thanks so much for your support, financial and otherwise, and especially for supporting the child who is chosen next year to attend Uplands College. I’ll keep a running tally here to record how fundraising goes (US $750 = Gold Medal!) and promise to post the total amount PCVs raise after all is said and done. I’m also attaching a PDF copy of the KLM’s annual report for those interested in a more in-depth understanding of the non-profit.
Next post: village life update, training progress, and stories of chicken bones and other surprisingly edible items.