I work with an NGO called Positive Heroes. Our Heroes are people from all over SA, who are HIV positive and open about their status. They work by example – within their own communities – showing how they are living happy and successful lives whilst managing their disease. A brave and laudable stance in a country that is, literally, dying of stigma.
We want to field an ultra-marathon team in 2010 – an ultra is any distance over 42km – the Comrades is 56km. Our four stunning runners are all on ARVs and, because the ARV regimen is time sensitive – they take their meds while they are running! Marathons are an incredible ask of any human body. Even one that is 100% healthy. Imagine running marathons when you live in an informal settlement, eat whatever you can afford and have a compromised immune system. It's like summiting mountains, without oxygen.
Which Evelina Tshabalala, already has. Seven, in fact.
Evie and her fellow team members – Willie Engelbrecht, Kenneth Methula and Masibulele Gcabo have decided they want to run SA's three big Ultras – Two Oceans, Comrades and Soweto. The message of hope in every footfall along that ultra-route is unimaginable. So Positive Heroes is trying to raise money/services to help them to run the race, deliver the message.
So far all of this is an UP. But here's the down. People don't get back to us. Just don't respond. To phone calls, e-mails, letters, smses … I'm talking about people we know, or people who we have been introduced to. Silence.
Now, I know that in business, silence does not mean consent. It means – “we are blowing you off and we are too lily-livered to tell you”. And, sorry folks, but that's not ok. Lives depend on us getting our message out. Even if your response is a no. That is ok. But tell us, show some manners,
The only exception has been Heather Scott, Gidon Novik's (Kulula) Executive Assistant. Who responded immediately to my “cold call” email. She directed me to the right department and even promised to follow up if I hadn't heard anything in a week. A classy lady. But the bank, the footwear company, the health-care provider – not a word. And they have known all of us, by first name, for the past 18 months.
We're looking for services over money. Flights, so that Masibulele doesn't have to take a 24 hour bus-ride before he runs 50kms. A couple of hotel rooms; so the Team doesn't have to bunk down miles from the race start. A hire car – so we can travel to and from the races together. And running shoes – good quality, pro-designed running shoes so that they can cover those ks in comfort. We also need a PR agency to help with the huge buzz that these four generate when they get out on the roads in their Positive Heroes T-shirts
If any of you out there can help – please let me know. You'll find Positive Heroes at www.positiveheroes.org.za. You'll find me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise I will respond.
There was an upside to the week, though. And that was all of the Parliament standing to sing their welcome to Madiba. Class and manners. As to commenting on the State of Mr Zuma's Union …. I'll leave that to Mr Zapiro .