January 2014: Well-known South African adventurer, David Grier and his running partner Andrew Stuart, returned last week from Cuba after running more than 1500km from the south eastern tip of the country to the north western tip in an attempt to raise money for the Cipla Foundation Miles for Smiles initiative.
This initiative assists the medical services organisation, Operation Smile, in creating awareness for the plight of children born with cleft lips and palates, as well as raises funds to perform corrective surgery on them. Grier and Stuart are the first athletes to run the length of this Caribbean island in one attempt. Grier completed this gruelling journey in just 28 days after setting off to start the adventure on 27thNovember 2013 with long-time running partner, Andrew Stuart. The duo raised more than R250 000 for Cipla Miles for Smiles by running on average 50km a day, which will enable over 30 children to benefit from corrective facial surgeries across the African continent in 2014. Grier chose Cuba for this adventure because of the country’s mysterious quality and its ability to capture people’s imaginations.
Grier says that this adventure was particularly challenging. “We were constantly running into trouble with the authorities on our quest, harassed interrogated and threatened with deportation, then on the narrow overgrown roads had to dodge trucks and cars while running. We also had very limited access to water, places to sleep and food, and experienced soaring temperatures and extreme heat every day. “We saw that while life in Cuba is challenging, there is an acceptance and content amongst the people we encountered, as they have the ability to look past the harsh realities of daily life and appreciate what they have. Their attitude inspired us to push on during tough times to complete the journey in order for so many children born with cleft lips to benefit from our endeavour,” explains Grier. Grier ran 52km on Christmas day, but faced the personal challenge of missing his family in South Africa during this time, as his daughter gave birth to his third grandchild during the festive period.
“We constantly reminded ourselves that the journey is bigger than any one of us, and that it is about making the difference in someone else’s life and creating awareness for the problem of cleft lips and palates. “One in every 750 children in Africa is born with a cleft palate or lip, and one in 10 babies born with this condition does not make it to their first birthday.
As a result, many children’s quality of life suffers, as they deal with malnutrition, medical and psychological problems,” says Grier. Previous adventures Grier undertook to raise awareness and money for the Cipla Miles for Smiles initiative include a UK run from John O’Groats to Land’s End, the length of Ireland, in 34 days beforethe 2012 UK Olympics, and the 4000km distance between the south and north of India in 2011. Enough funding was raised through these journeys to enable 1800 children to receive corrective facial surgery through the Cipla Miles for Smiles initiative. “We are honoured to be part of David’s journey to raise awareness for this worthy cause, which is in line with our philosophy of making the lives of those born with this condition, better.
To contribute to the Cipla Miles for Smiles initiative, visit http://milesforsmiles.co.za/make-a-donation. All proceeds and donations will be donated to Operation Smile to conduct corrective surgeries on children born with cleft palates across Southern Africa.
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