Thabang Skwambane, a young man from a privileged home, recalled his reaction when he first met a little girl of 22 months old, Sello Moloto, in 2006.
He met her as she was waiting for her turn to receive food, among 63 other orphans. Thabang was told that Sello had to learn to look after herself: it was then he realised we should live in a world where children are looked after.
Aluwani, previously The Lonely Road Foundation, was founded by FCB Joburg MD Thabang Skwambane in 2007 when he completed an unsupported cycle ride of about 6 000km from Johannesburg to Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, and finished his journey by climbing the mountain.
His three-month journey, the Lonely Road Challenge, was intended to symbolise the lonely road that vulnerable children walk through childhood. It was also inspired by little Sello Moloto.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the cycle and climb.
“I learnt so much on this journey; it was an internal transformation for me and to be able to equip these children with the means to live a better life as been amazing,” said Skwambane.
The Aluwani walking initiative has since helped 3 500 children from 29 villages in the Limpopo province and the number continues to grow every year.
Skwambane met Tom David, 23, and Warren Handley, 24, from Cape Town, who committed themselves to the initiative. They completed the walk this month.
David and Handley admit they were never prepared for this strenuous journey. They decided to take part to mark the 10-year anniversary of the establishment of Aluwani.
“We trained a lot, walking about 30km in Cape Town, but after day one of walking we realised we had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into,” said Handley.
The first two weeks were the most difficult, not knowing where they would sleep, the exhaustion and blisters and living off $2 a day for food, which meant they were eating mostly biscuits and nuts.
David told The Citizen that one of his most memorable experiences was when they were walking in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.
They had just arrived in a village that had no electricity looking a bit worse for wear after a 14-hour walk which was the longest walk they’d done.
“We didn’t know what to do. Nobody spoke English and we looked really bad we would have been lucky if anyone welcomed us into their home.”
But some locals offered them a bed while the lady owner slept on the couch.
“We were extremely humbled by that. We didn’t even know it was her bed until the next morning.”
They could not say one country was better than the other. The best experience they had was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. They agreed that getting to the top was an unforgettable moment.
“That last 10 metres, before we got to the top, was very hard. I was fighting back the tears, thinking I was almost there and when I finally got to the top the feeling was indescribable,” he said excitedly.
The Aluwani foundation has 20 facilities, each catering to different age groups. – firstname.lastname@example.org