Nestled in the deeply rural beauty of the Eastern Cape are the vibrant hospital communities of Zithulele and Madwaleni. Originally mission hospitals, the hospitals serve large catchment populations of people whose socio-economic position makes them face harsh health outcomes.
Zithulele Hospital, in the photo above, is a 147-bed hospital in the Oliver Tambo district 90 minutes from the nearest town of Mthatha, and seven kilometres inland from the pristine beaches of the Wild Coast. It serves a population of around 130 000 people. Further south and slightly further inland in the neighbouring district of Amathole, is Madwaleni Hospital, with a bed capacity of 180 and a community of just over 250 000 people that relies on the hospital and its outlying clinics.
AHP has been supporting these hospitals since 2006, having placed 60 internationally-qualified healthcare professionals in the hospitals over the years. Both hospitals have suffered in years past with lack of human resources, but through inspirational leadership and lots of hard work, these are now sought-after placements. Indeed, capacity has increased so that both have clinical teams including doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, dieticians, occupational therapists, radiographers, speech & audio therapists and pharmacists, many of whom join to do their Community Service post training. Alongside Zithulele Hospital is Jabulani Rural Health Foundation, a non-profit organisation founded by the hospital’s leadership. Jabulani, which means to ‘be happy’, supports the hospital and its surrounding community with a focus on healthcare, education, poverty relief, environmental issues and community development.
Last year some intrepid runners from Jabulani launched the ‘MadZit Trail Run’ between the two hospitals. This wasn’t just an adventure for madmen – the objectives include strengthening the relationships between the hospitals, identifying local runners, exposing the rural community to the sport, and highlighting and raising support for the work of the community upliftment projects in the area, many of whom rely on donations and need to increase exposure of the important work they do.
The 28km route follows the shortest distance between the hospitals, traversing gravel roads, single tracks and three rivers! The first race saw a field of 50 runners competing – it’s hoped this year that will reach 100 runners. Local women acted as marshals to keep the runners en route as the previous night’s rain had washed away some lime markers, but that is all part of the adventure of living in the Eastern Cape. Supporters met runners at the finish line and the prize-giving was followed by a “lekker braai”.
Last year’s winners were Dr Kevin Pasio from Zithulele Hospital, Zithulele’s gardener Phumlani Mpanana and Niyaniso Mzimane, pictured above. Phumlani and fourth placed Lulamile Danile subsequently went on to run their first ever Two Oceans Marathon and the Comrades Marathon this year!
The MadZit trail run was so successful that it’s back – this year, the race is set for Saturday, October 29th, and runners will start at Zithulele and run to Madwaleni.
The entrance fee of R100 covers water tables, route marking, cash prizes, t-shirts, start and finish entertainment, and will be used to fund local runners. Accommodation is free if you choose to camp, while there are relatively inexpensive, but beautiful backpackers nearby. You can also choose from hotels to private cottages in Hole in the Wall and Coffee Bay.
This year we hope that some of our doctors at other hospitals in South Africa might join their colleagues and the community in what promises to be a great adventure.
While the organisers have said that a moderate fitness level is sufficient to enjoy the day, there is an opportunity to put your money where you may not be brave enough to put your feet – you can sponsor one or more unemployed community members who can’t afford the whole entrance fee.
We hope to see you there!
For further information, see their Facebook page, or contact race founder Liaan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos courtesy of Jabulani