As the old saying goes, “You need to walk a mile in someone’s shoes to get to know them” and that is exactly what I and other 55 midnight walkers put into practice over the past weekend.
The occasion was a 93 Kilometres walk through the Makgadikgadi Pans cut into two trips. The first lap of the trip, 46.5 kilometres, was led by the Y-Care pace-setter Khumo Mogotsi. It started at Mosu Village which is located at the south end edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans into the Kubu Island. The second round was a return trip from the Island which is famous for its beauty, rich history and many baobab trees back to the outskirts of the dusty Mosu village where we had camped.
As expected the walk was both emotionally and physically demanding as explained by the walk-sweeper, Sheila Camm at the beginning of the walk some thirty minutes after 5pm. However, the excitement of walking in the pans, illuminated by the natural light of the moon made things easier. The outcome of enduring pain for the sake of the less privileged was motivation enough to sweat our way to Kubu Island and back to the outskirts of Mosu. The walk also meant being offline the entire time as the network reception in the Pans is not so good. This meant no Facebook, WatsApp, Twitter or any sort of social media that we usually pass time with.
For us new comers, our alternative social media, which turned out to be the best was the seasoned walkers amongst them motivational speaker Lets Sithole, radio personalities – Paphani Masalila, Loretta Mekgwe, as well as photojournalist Pako Lesejane. The all time walkers put up everything they could to ensure that we had fun whilst enduring the pain of walking part of the distance in muddy pans. At the camping site, even the new comers such as Letsweletse Tshukudu, and international walkers like Khotatso made sure that every now and then a joke was shared to lighten up the team members spirits.
By Sunday when we got back to Mosu, most of my short text messages (SMSes) centred around one question – “How was the walk?” In a bid to share the entire experience, my response was that a midnight walk in the pans felt like a walk on the moon, or on another planet. It symbolized the eternal life cycle of night and day ÔÇô a thin line between life and death, one could say. The walk deprived us of a cousin of death called sleep but gave us an opportunity to reflect on the hardships that humanity faces and to a larger extend how we could help make things easier for the less privileged.
The lighting up of the moon, three hours after we left the outskirt Mosu village helped to speed up our hallucinations and to a certain extend cravings. I remember one of the walkers said he was missing a “warm greeting” from his neighbour. Just a “wave and dumelang” was what he wanted to see and hear after walking 30 kilometres into the Pans. (We had our midnight lunch at that same point).
With a dedicated and hard working support team, which ensured that upon arrival we got as comfortable as we could through foot massages and pitching up our tents well in advance, the walk felt like a walk in the path, though it wasn’t. Medics, led by a gentle and passionate man identified as Monty, from the Boitekanelo Emergency Medical Services were always on standby for medical assistance to the walkers.
At the end of day two, the Trust chairman Modise Koofhethile appreciated the walkers including corporate sponsors such as Debswana Mining Company, BITC, Kamoso Consultancy, Medswana, Fine Brands, and Boitekanelo Emergency Medical Services. Media companies amongst them Sunday Standard, The Botswana Guardian, Business Weekly, RB1 as well as Gabz Fm were also recognised for adding value to the charitable course.
A walk in pursuit of service to humanity
The Y-Care charity trust fund, started from an inspiring dream by the then chairperson Dr Nomsa Mbere to walk across the Makgadikgadi Pans to raise funds for charity. Open to individual and corporate teams, the walk has been running since 2003 and has so far distributed over P5 million to various organisations.
The incumbent country coordinator of the Trust, Sarona Moabi, explains that, “We raise funds through charity walks to support community projects across the country which entails addressing different societal needs include those of the youth, orphans, vulnerable children as well as development of the arts and sports”.
This year’s edition, which was the 15th since inception, attracted atleast 55 walkers and sponsors from Botswana, Spain, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.