Thomas Witten will be attempting to run 1,400km for charity to raise funds for underprivileged children in South Africa. Picture: Thomas Witten
Thomas Witten will be attempting to run 1,400km for charity to raise funds for underprivileged children in South Africa. Picture: Thomas Witten

SA man, stuck in UK, hopes to run 1400km for local charity

By Chad Williams Time of article published Aug 7, 2020

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Cape Town - A soon-to-be-dad from South Africa is aiming to run 1 400km for a good cause, all while playing a cornet along the way.

Thomas Witten is stuck in Wales, UK, due to the travel restrictions put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Both he and his wife are teachers and have been living and working in Moscow for about six years.

“We flew to Wales from Moscow in March 2020 as we were afraid of the Covid-19 situation in Russia and South Africa had closed its borders to foreigners.

“The European Union had just closed their borders and we were afraid that we would be stuck in Russia if the UK closed their borders as well, which means that I wouldn't be allowed to travel to the UK on an SA passport and subsequently our baby would be born in Russia without our families present, which we didn't want,” said Witten.

“Thus we travelled to the UK, thinking we would return to Moscow in a month or two, but of course things have turned out much worse than imagined. So, basically, we're stuck in Wales for a while until the three of us will be allowed to travel to South Africa together."

Witten has taken on the mammoth task of running the Wales Coastal Path, a magnificent stretch along the Welsh coastline, for a charity that is close to his heart.

The route distance is about the same as that from Cape Town to Johannesburg, around 1,400km overall.

If successful, Witten will become one of a very few people to achieve this feat in under 28 days.

According to the Fastest Known Time website, James Harcombe ran the coastal path in a record time of 20 days, 12 hours and 55 minutes back in 2017.

Witten said it was difficult to choose a charity, especially since there are so many worthy causes out there, but ultimately he decided on the Pebbles Project.

Having spent some of his teenage years living on a farm in the Western Cape province, Witten witnessed the dire plight of farmworkers struggling to break the cycle of poverty.

It’s on the farm that Thomas first learnt to play the trumpet, and it was on the dusty farm roads that he developed his passion for running.

“I chose the Pebbles Project because of their focus on holistic education, from working with pregnant mothers through to early childhood and early adulthood to give these children who live in very disadvantaged communities the best possible chance of success,” explained Witten.

“While their main focus is education, they realise that you cannot adequately educate a hungry child, so part of their programme is providing two meals a day to these children. They provide medical and dental care and work within the communities to try and uplift living conditions.”

Witten understands first-hand how important early childhood development is. He has been an educator for most of his adult life. He was a music teacher and taught in the South African National Defence Force as an officer in charge of a military band. He was later an au pair, a nanny, a governor, a private tutor and, more recently, he qualified as a Montessori and International Baccalaureate early-years educator.

“How the Pebbles Project approaches this resonates with much of what I believe in,” said Witten.

“I also appreciated that only 11 to 12% of the funds raised are spent on running costs. Everything else goes directly to the programme provision,” he added.

Did we mention that Witten will be running the Wales Coastal Route with his cornet - an instrument that resembles a small trumpet - and playing song requests from followers en route?

Witten said that during these difficult times a bit of music seems to bring some joy and positiveness into people's lives.

African News Agency

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