When you see a situation with your own eyes, along the dusty roads of the Cape rural areas, that’s when you really get an idea of the conditions in which so many people live.
This is the way Gershwin Williams of Off The Beaten Track (OTBT) put it to Bobby Nitro, when talking about a recent outreach initiative organized by the 4by4 touring group.
He says: “We spend most of our travels on gravel roads, and we’re always welcomed by the friendly faces and waving arms of the farm children, and they’ve touched our hearts on each and every trip, so we felt as a collective that we want to do something for them.
“When these parents say they can’t put a gift under the tree, they mean it. I saw documents that show some families are trying to survive on R1500 a month, that’s heartbreaking. The need is genuine, it’s not about not being able to afford a nice pair of kicks like in the cities, it’s for basic necessities. These are the forgotten towns, the big sponsors don’t go there.”
So Gershwin was put in touch with Petro McDonald of the Lammer Oes Project, a creche in Bonnievale. OTBT had intended to surprise 50 kids. But when Petro said she had 166 kids, they kicked into gear (hi range 4by4 ) and within days had raised R200 per child, for a Xmas box.
The quick momentum meant others jumped on board. A year’s stationery for the school was sponsored, then seat cover maker Escape Gear had the idea of turning off cut canvas into pencil bags, Good Hope Tyres brought two 100 litre pots of Akhni, another OTBT connection came with the toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Gershwin says: “This all meant that we were able to save and hand over R10k in cash to the school, on top of the Xmas boxes.”
As you can imagine, the children were very grateful. Some, said Gershwin, had never even been on a jumping castle, something city kids will take for granted.
He says: “And we did all this via a whatsapp group. You don’t need a big organization, just a group of willing people with big hearts.”
He adds, rather philosophically: “Think about that one person that had a big impact on you as a child, who said or did something positive that really stuck. That’s what we want to do, to be that one person for one child.
“We want to do our bit to inspire, to show these rural kids something different, perhaps to encourage some to escape the intergenerational stuckness that happens, a child reaches 15, leaves school for farm work, and then the alcohol starts.”
Really good work OTBT, hats off to you guys and girls.