Shining the spotlight on cerebral palsy
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Cape Town- Inspired by the thousands of charities that have come through her hands, Justene Bergins decided to start her own crowdfunding campaign.
The Stellenbosch resident will run/walk 125km in 25 marathons to raise funds for the Western Cape Cerebral Palsy Association (WCCPA).
Bergins, 29, said the main reason for her efforts is her sister Jessica Josias.
Josias suffers from cerebral palsy, a congenital disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture.
“She has been living with it since she was born. I used to pick Jessica up from school and saw her fellow schoolmates struggle with the same ailments, but they were always smiling and laughing.
“I know the struggles Jessica went through and how hard she works every day to do tasks some of us take for granted. My aim is to walk and run for those who would love to do so but cannot,” said Bergins.
Her goal is to raise R25 000 for WCCPA.
“I am hoping to highlight the plight that families have to go through. I am also here to show that anybody can run. As a plus-size model, there is a misconception that you should not be healthy. However, it’s actually the opposite. My aim is to show people that having self-confidence is key. Not the way you look and not the colour of your skin,” she said.
Bergins is the head of charities at BackaBuddy and a plus-size model for Ice Genetics, and has been modelling professionally since 2014. She has done campaigns for Jet, Donna, Kuier Magazine and Cosmopolitan, to name a few.
“I have been overweight most of my life. After having my daughter last year, I realised I need to take my health seriously and be more active so that I can live longer to see her grow up. My biggest motivation is my family, and their support is invaluable,” she said.
Josias, 24, said: “I was more interested in finding out about cerebral palsy and I was also emotional due to being bullied at school.
“At the age of 16, I had two choices – feel sorry for myself or start self-love and acceptance. I chose to embrace cerebral palsy with open arms and live one day at a time,” she said.
Josias, who has her diploma in sports management and certificate in project management, is currently doing an internship at AYO Technology Solutions, a IT service management company.
She is also a T38 100m and F38 shot-put and discus para-athlete, and plays wheelchair basketball.
Some of the symptoms she is currently experiencing include: slowness in walking and running, muscle weakness in her hands and feet, slow speech, and an abnormal spine and weak posture, which often gives her daily back pain.
Fundraiser for WCCPA Hilary Halladey said: “Cerebral palsy is not a disease or an illness and may be caused by many factors. Throughout South Africa, and indeed the world, the occurrence of cerebral palsy has remained stable at about one in every 400 live births."
Bergins has already completed two races and her next race is on Saturday.