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Mpumelelo Gamede fights back

Mpumelelo Gamede runs in 10 kilo­metre races. He finishes last every time. But he does not care. He only wants to finish.

Mpumelelo runs in races – and he can’t even walk properly. He needs crutches and special shoes. Every step is painfuI.

But Mpumelelo does not complain. He does not feel sorry for himself. He is fighting back. He told Learn and Teach his story:

“I was born in Standerton 25 years ago. When I was six months old, I got sick. I got a sickness called Polio. My parents took me to the hospital. But they took me too late. The doctors could not help me.”

I went to school in Lichtenburg for a while. The school is a special school for people like me. Then I went to stay with my grandmother in Soweto. I went to a school in Soweto. I got my Junior Certificate.

I was a lonely child. I had very few friends. I could not run around with the other boys. Nobody came to visit me.

I listened to a lot of music. I listened to people like Dollar Brand, Mirriam Makeba, Barry White and Zakes Nkosi. They were my best friends. When I listened to their music, I felt they were with me.

I also liked reading. I liked reading about sport. I am a great fan of Orlando Pirates. And often I sat at the window and watched the children on their roller-skates. I watched the children for hours.

Sometimes I turned the music off. I put the books away. And I waited for the children to go to sleep. I sat and thought. I thought about my lonely life. I thought about my crippled body. I felt trapped. I didn’t know what to do.

One morning I woke up late. I turned the music on. And I went to find the newspaper. I read the sports page. I always read the sports page first. Then I saw that story. That story changed my life.

The story was about a race In Soweto: They called it a ‘fun race’. The run was 10 kilometres long and anybody couId try. I sat and thought for a long time. Then I knew what I had to do.

I began to get ready for the race. I went for long walks. I went to a field and did exercises. I suffered a lot in the beginning. But I got stronger. I got stronger every day.

Then I got scared. I thought I wouldn’t finish. I thought people would laugh. I began to worry. I didn’t sleep well at night.

But I knew I didn’t have a choice. I had to run. And I did run. The race was slow and painful. I finished last. But I finished. And nobody laughed.

My life was changing. I felt better. Then I got another idea – a club for the children on roller-skates. I liked my idea. Let the children skate and learn together! Find a safe place for the children to skate!

I spoke to some guys I knew – Benny Mojapelo and Herman Mokone. They liked the idea. We went to speak to the children. And they also liked the idea. Now we have 250 members already.

I work with the children on weekends. On Saturdays we meet in a big parking lot outside the Market Theatre. On Sundays we meet at the Diepkloof Hall. We have all colours in the club – black, white, indian and “coloured”. I love them all. They are all my friends.

Sometimes I put on a pair of roller-skates. And I try to skate. But I don’t get very far. I fall over every time. The children help me get up again. They tell me not to give up. I tell them I’m a slow learner. They must be patient. I will skate one day.

I don’t sit at home anymore. I am studying again. I am learning watch-making. Then I want to get married. I have a girlfriend already.

I feel happy now. I know what I must do. I must show the world that people like me aren’t useless. All we need is a chance. Just a chance .


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