STEPS FOR CANCER: Joppie Fourie stopped at Port Alfred High School on his “Ten million steps for Cancer” campaign which has taken him all over the country on foot, creating awareness and encouraging people to celebrate life Picture: CANDICE BRADFIELD
ON a journey of making positive change, Joppie Fourie had completed 4800km on foot around the country as part of his “Ten million steps for Cancer” campaign by the time he reached Port Alfred on Wednesday.
He addressed the pupils of Port Alfred High School who had many questions about the causes, effects and treatment of cancer.
Joppie lost his mother to cancer in 2001 and in 2008 his daughter Marlené was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma. At the age of 17 she was given nine months to lives. After going through the stages of denial, rejecting others and acceptance, Marlené decided to live her remaining life to the full. She set several goals for herself and continued to attend school, write exams, take part in athletics and enjoy their winter ball.
“And she achieved those goals with the help of God,” said Joppie.
After she passed away he started drinking heavily and focusing on the negative instead of the positive. However with the help of his friends he managed to get back on track and decided to start “Ten million steps for cancer”.
He left Oudtshoorn on August 6 last year and has been visiting hospitals, child cancer patients and talking to different groups.
In the beginning Joppie started with no budget as he could not find a company to back what was deemed a suicide mission. All his equipment was second hand and he sold his car to cover expenses.
He has been to Cape Town, Springbok, Upington, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Harrismith and East London. It took him five days to reach Port Alfred.
From Port Alfred he will go on to Kenton-on-Sea, Alexandria and Port Elizabeth.
Joppie pushes a cart designed like a hospital bed which contains all his supplies such as a tent, food and spare wheels as he does not have a support vehicle. Depending on what the landscape is like, he will complete anywhere between 20km and 62km where he has to. While his personal assistant Lizaane Schroeder who handles all the admin tries to book accommodation for him wherever possible, this is not always realistic due to the distance in between towns. For this reason he has slept in the veld 55 times and spent 21 nights camping on the side of the N1 but has never been mugged or had a bad experience. Some even leave him cooldrink and sandwiches when they see his tent pitched on the side of the road. He also has not had to pay for accommodation more than 10 times in nearly a year of being on the road.
“People are so generous. I’ve experienced a completely different South Africa than what you see in the news,” he said.
Protea sponsors his accommodation in the big cities. Astral sponsors his cell phone expenses and paid for his winter equipment. He has been visiting Astral factories all over the country to educate workers about cancer, and hopes other companies will follow suit.
He updates his Facebook status everyday and has 2700 followers while Schroeder publishes more detailed news on his blog.
“She is the backbone of everything,” he said.
His aim for the campaign has been to create awareness, educate others and raise funds for research. He wants to encourage people to go for regular checkups so any cancer can be detected early.
“The earlier the better,” he said.
“I want people to celebrate every day God has given them. Life can change with one phone call or a doctor’s visit.”
On August 4 he will have completed his 10 million steps and reached home.
For more information visit www.tenmillionstepsforcancer.org.za or look for him on Facebook. If you would like to make a contribution, the banking details are: ABSA, account number 926 455 1428, account name Ten Million Steps for Cancer, business savings account.