Mercy Cwayi - On Eagles Wings 740

As the excitement builds for the SPAR Women’s Challenge events – starting with next weekend’s Grand Prix Series race in Gqeberha – there is an overarching feeling that it is about more than just running.

This emerged at the launch of the 10km Grand Prix Series event at the St George’s Park cricket stadium last month when recognition was given to the beneficiaries for their community work.

The charities are United Through Sport and On Eagles’ Wings, which are both involved in the fight against gender-based violence (GBV), albeit on different platforms.

In celebrating the moment when SPAR Eastern Cape donated R50 000 to each organisation, sponsorships and events manager Alan Stapleton outlined the rationale behind the beneficiaries they chose.

“How wonderful to have such special people here with us tonight,” he said. “You don’t know just how much work goes into the fight against GBV.

“There is so much secrecy around this scourge, and so much hurt, and these people do an amazing amount of work to help out communities.”

Stapleton said there were two different thrusts this year because it was necessary to work at ground level where GBV was happening as well as raise people up and create awareness of the problem.

“Hence, we have the situation of two different beneficiaries, one which raises awareness through educational and sporting programmes and the second for being at the coalface and helping those who are in trouble in real time.

Mercy Cwayi - On Eagles Wings 740

On Eagles’ Wings founder Mercy Cwayi, centre, accepts a cheque from the SPAR Women’s Challenge on behalf of her organisation at the race’s regional launch. With her are, from left, Women’s Challenge national ambassadors Gino Fabbri and Yolanda Bukani, SPAR EC promotions and events manager Alan Stapleton and SPAR EC managing director Angelo Swartz. Photo: Leon Hugo

“I want to say to our beneficiaries tonight, we know that there is much work to be done, but we believe that the little bit of difference you are making does result in a huge change to peoples’ lives.”

United Through Sport, under chief executive officer Di Luden, runs multilevel projects to change lives through literacy programmes, education and, particularly, through using sport as a vehicle to deliver its message.

“The modus operandi we follow is to encourage young girls to make sure they are empowered by using their voices and there has been success on that front,” she said.

“Not only have the young girls enjoyed the programme, but the lessons they have learnt have improved their confidence.

“It is not just about the girls, because a big part of our theme is teaching boys to understand gender equality and encouraging them to be advocates for the safety of girls in their communities.”

Under the direction of founder Mercy Cwayi, On Eagles’ Wings operates from a multipurpose centre in Jeffreys Bay, providing shelter for those who are victims of GBV and working to make communities safer.

“We support families who have had to deal with GBV, rape survivors and young children from homes where crimes are committed against women,” she said.

“Our work is linked to that done by the department of social development and our focus is to make the region around Jeffreys Bay a safer and happier space for families to live in.”

Cwayi said she agreed with president Cyril Ramaphosa when he described GBV as the second pandemic.

“Like Covid-19, we don’t know when it will end but we will continue to do our bit by counselling those who are affected to try to help them overcome this dreadful scourge.”

SPAR’s Virtual Challenge will take place in September.