Fifty-two Dutch runners representing the Run4Schools Foundation are running the 2013 edition of the Two Oceans Marathon in support of the organisation’s after-care sports programmes in Mitchell’s Plain. Together they have raised 68.000 euro (±R800.000) – and counting.
“We are very excited to have done this together so that the children of Mitchell’s Plain can spend their after-school hours in a safe, supervised environment,” says founder and athlete Leslie Pangemanan. It is his 9th Two Oceans in support of the foundation he established in 2004.
Run4Schools has raised millions since then. Four schools are currently under the organisation’s wings. “When I was 19, I was sent to Cape Town by the Dutch sports authority NOC/NSF, with the task to start a sports project in Mitchell’s Plain,” Pangemanan recalls, who is now 41 and working as a sports therapist in Amsterdam.
“Upon my return, these experiences led to the founding of Run4Schools. Due to poverty, many schools don’t have the capacity for after-care programmes,” je continues. “And even if they have the capacity, many parents in Mitchell’s Plain are too poor to afford the extra expense of after-care. As a result, many care givers have no choice but to leave children unsupervised until they get home. This makes youngsters easy preys for gangsters, drug dealers and crime. It made me sad and drove me to do something.”
Upon his return to The Netherlands, Pangemanan developed a plan to raise funds for after-care sports projects in Mitchell’s Plain by running races and marathons. “Hence the name of the organisation,” he explains, adding that he no longer runs on his own.
“During every major race, Dutch runners join us to fight for our cause. Back home in Holland, we’ve even established a running race (De Letterenloop /” The Run of Letters”) specifically for Run4Schools and Mitchell’s Plain,” adds Pangemanan, who is doing all of this on a voluntary basis.
The Two Oceans is without a doubt one of the main fundraising events. “The amount for this year stands at 68.000 euro or R800.000,” he notes. “This amount is likely to grow because more has been added since I last checked. This money will be spent on sports materials as well as the training and salaries of the coaches.”
As a result of the efforts of Run4Schools, 2500 to 3000 kids on a weekly basis and from four schools spend their after-school hours in a safe environment. Apart from after care-sports programmes, Run4Schools has established feeding schemes at some of the schools.
In addition, three schools have been equipped with artificial sports fields worth 60.000 euro each. “A couple of years back, one of our Two Oceans runners decided to do more than just running and donated these state of the art sports fields,” says Pangemanan.
Besides adding schools to his list, the Run4Schools founder dreams a real, world-class athletics track and coaching centre in Mitchell’s Plain. Presently schools and athletics clubs from the area are forced to use facilities in other parts of the city, including the Vygieskraal and Bellville Stadiums.
“Mitchell’s Plain deserves an athletics facility like any other area in Cape Town,” the athlete says. “There is massive talent in Mitchell’s Plain and we believe that a multi-purpose track will help nurture this talent and pull people out of poverty. This will produce many star performers in all disciplines, which will benefit the entire community.”
This first careful steps of realising this dream have been taken with a meeting between Run4Schools, The Mitchell’s Plain Education Forum, Glendale High School and other stakeholders on the Friday before the Two Oceans. Pangemanan: “A lot of work is needed before the track becomes a reality, but the first steps have been made.”
Image: The artificial sports field at Northwood Primary School. (Miriam Mannak)