South Africa is a country where the upliftment of underprivileged youth is crucial for creating a prosperous society. The importance of substantial education, proper housing, nutrition and exemplary adult figures cannot be underestimated. But perhaps there is an altogether different issue that needs to be addressed: how does one inspire youngsters to strive for a successful life?
In 2015, Ingrid Wolfaardt, a resident of the charming Karoo village of Prince Albert, sent an email to nine-time Comrades champion Bruce Fordyce. “From the start, me and many fellow villagers were on to the same thing. We wanted to start a local Saturday parkrun for our beautiful town, but one that would also address the needs of the local children by encouraging them to partake in sports and a healthy lifestyle.”
Fordyce phoned Ingrid the next day.
“For many months we scaled the local randjies with a measuring wheel, and then Bruce flew down to help us establish the route,” says Wolfaardt.
The first year, however, wasn’t all that it was cut out to be. “I cajoled, begged and pleaded, yet only a handful of children would show up, with young Matthew Olivier being our star. I then spoke to Shaun from the Prince Albert Tourism Office and realised that children in our town very likely didn’t have something to eat after the race, when their bodies needed to be refueled.
After chats with the headmasters at our primary and high school, we bravely announced as a community trust that all school children that participate would get a pancake voucher to be redeemed at the Saturday market in town at Johan and Mari du Toit’s food stall.”
The parkrun started offering this initiative from the beginning of 2017. Within a few weeks, figures for school children competing in the parkrun rose from eight to eighty, and even one hundred on some days.
“Then we added a new addition. All children who registered for the race at their schools online would receive a pair of takkies after ten parkruns. In the past year, sixty four children have qualified. The really marvellous thing is that they don’t stop running after they have received the takkies!”
Believe it or not, there’s a cherry on top. Children can now go to Prince Albert’s Showroom Theatre after receiving their pancake for the Saturday children’s movie screening. Here, they receive a complimentary soft drink and popcorn.
“Thanks to the Prince Albert Parkrun, children learn to integrate and socialise with one another, and learn to commit to a weekly routine; all of their own free will. They learn to talk to visitors (they also run faster than the visitors!), which enables them to integrate into a bigger community.
Prince Albert’s parkrun is one where the children rule. I suspect the average age of the attendees is less than the fingers on both your hands!” says Ingrid.
Bryanston Parkrun recently sponsored second hand gear for the children of Prince Albert parkrun, and donations are always welcome. To find out how you can help and to sign up for a lovely Saturday morning parkrun with the local children of Prince Albert, click on the link below.