Christmas came early this year for Bloemfontein Grade 11 learner and long-distance runner, Xolisa Madi, when a local businessman undertook to sponsor him.
The 20-year-old lives in absolute poverty in a one-room house in Freedom Square, decorated with medals he won in several races across South Africa, Lesotho and Malawi.
Madi said he had an uphill battle to continue with his school career.
“It is just me and my brother and we are struggling. I was considering leaving school to go and work to support myself,” he explained.
With no money for a school uniform, learning material or food sometimes, Madi was about to give up.
He said he, however, decided to explain his situation to a MET facilitor from a local company that specialises in youth development, Busisiwe Bhele, who advised him not to give up on his education or his first love – running.
“I was so inspired by Madi’s commitment to athletics and his braveness that I decided to try and help him,” she explained.
Bhele said the first door she knocked on to ask for help was that of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in the Free State.
EFF councillor, Baba Sebolao, decided to contact a local businessman who is also a runner, Calvin Marogoa, from Marogoa Tent Hire and Services. They visited Madi’s house and encouraged him to discuss his situation and his future with them.
The group told him to keep on running and to look at his school career as just another race to be won.
“You can stop wondering how to get to your next race, or what to eat, or the leaking roof of your one-room house, or your school fees,” said Marogoa.
He undertook to fully sponsor Madi and even build him a better home.
“You just have to focus on completing high school and what you want to study after that. I will provide the rest – including what you need to keep on running,” Marogoa assured Madi. – Cathy Dlodlo