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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I started running barefoot myself, so I decided to start helping my fellow runners' - Mlu Woyisana

It was during his time as Chairperson of Maritzburg City Athletics Club that Mlu Wosiyana realized just how many of his fellow runners were struggling with the bare necessities, let alone being able to afford a pair of running shoes. And because he had escaped a life of poverty himself, Woyisana decided to do something about it.

Woyisana assisted by his wife (back) hand over shoes to some of the beneficiaries after his birthday run. Photo Credit: Mlu Woyisana.

"I started running barefoot myself back in 1989 as my family was very poor and struggling to even put food on our table, so having running shoes was a luxury I couldn’t even dream of. I relied on donations from my employers where I worked on weekends as a gardener during my primary and high school days. After completing my studies I worked for SALGA and Parliament of the RSA and eventually as Director in the National Transport Department for 7 years. This obviously improved my finances and that of my family so I decided to start helping many fellow runners who are less privileged than me," he told #TheTopRunner.

What started out as helping runners here and there has developed into a foundation that works year round to assist underprivileged runners. Based on his belief that sport and athletics in particular should accessible to all, every year on his birthday on the 20th of February, the founder of what has become the WOSIE Foundation invites his friends and family to run his age in kilometres and then donate running shoes which he then distributes to those in need. Over the last four years the shoe drive has gifted over 500 runners with shoes donated by other runners and sponsors such as Poobie Naidoo Sports, Mr Price Sports, the Hollywood Foundation and Hollywoodbets.

Comrades Marathon 11th place finisher and top runner Nkosikhona Mhlakwana also took part in his fellow Hollywoodbets Athletic Club runner's birthday run. Photo Credit: Mlu Woyisana.

"My life motto which has become my Foundation slogan is 'A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.' I started this programme on my 44th birthday when I made the decision to celebrate my birthday in a special way by sharing it with those less privileged than me. This year alone I have covered over 200 beneficiaries whilst my target was 100 beneficiaries. Donors continue to donate Shoes and by end of this month (February 2022) I will reach 300 as I’m still waiting for the delivery of 30 pairs of running shoes from one of my generous donors which is the Hollywood Foundation," explained the Comrades Marathon Green Number owner who celebrated his 47th birthday this week.

And it looks like this is just the beginning of his charitable work because the man who hails from Imbali township in Pietermaritzburg is planning to expand his foundation's work so that it can help empower the youth with the skills they require to break free of the cycle of poverty. "The vision and founding objective of my Foundation is to assist talented underprivileged athletes and also empower young people with skills, carrier guidance, entrepreneurship and self development," he concluded.

If the success of his shoe drive is anything to go by then expect even more lives to be touched by Woyisana's work. Contact the WOSIE Foundation on +27 82 565 0877 to donate shoes which are accepted throughout the year.

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