Pepe Marais, executive creative director of ad agency, Joe Public, is running the Great Wall of China to raise funds for the school he has adopted, and the education NGO he started. And he’s not even a runner.
In fact, the last time he ran with any great enthusiasm was in 1988 in the Two Oceans Marathon, and that was to get a pass while he was serving in the army. But this is the man who climbed Kilimanjaro two years ago, also to add to the coffers of Forte High in Soweto and the One School at a Time NGO, so it’s not that surprising that he’s set himself another high level target.
The goal is to raise R500 000 for the good works and for that, he needs the help of everyone who believes education, as Nelson Mandela said, is the “most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
“The 42 km marathon includes 5 000 steps. I am asking my network of business associates, clients and friends for anything from R1 a step or more,” says Marais. “I followed the same format when I climbed Kilimanjaro and raised near R400 000 then, but it seems that people are not so keen to part with their hard earned money nowadays. I wonder if it is because of all the current corruption that people just don’t feel like giving more?”
His agency, Joe Public, is also involved. Although One School At A Time is a registered NPO, it is also part of Joe’s CSI. “Our core business purpose is that of Growth. Growth of our people. Growth of our clients. And ultimately, growth of our country,” Marais says. “This is why we exist as a business. This is our effort to contribute to our country at large. Joe Public also pays 50% of the salary of our managing director and supplies all resources in terms of design work. We also use our resource to engage at the school in terms of motivating the students or even in simple upgrades like painting the library.”
Bronwyn James, managing director of One School at a Time, will be running the 21 kilometre half marathon, also taking part in the quest to raise R500 000.
Marais says the most successful investment within the school is extra classes on Saturdays. “For this we pay the teachers proper overtime for proper commitment. A lot of money is invested into this project. However, we have a multitude of other projects that we fund. Like feeding, support of some kids with no parents and constant upgrades. The government budget for the school for 2012 is yet to reach our school,” he says.
And so, he’s in serious training mode. “I’ve been training for the last two months and have a month to go. I’ve run six kilometres every Tuesday and Wednesday, an eight km on Fridays and a 10 kilometre on Saturday and a 25 kilometre on Sundays over the past two weeks. I will be running a 35 kilometre this coming Friday, so getting stronger.”
And while he runs, he listens to Zulu tutorials. “I am learning to speak isiZulu and due to time being a very rare resource, I use this time for this. On weekends, when I run with the club, we chat while we run. I am in the process of learning how not to live in my mind.”
Marais’ devotion to the cause of education is because he believes education is “fundamentally the solution underneath every challenge that faces South Africa today. We are in a new state of apartheid – the apartheid between the educated and the uneducated. Knowledge is indeed power,” he says.
“A child without Matric is six times more likely to engage with crime. A child that performs properly in Matric – at least an average of over 60% – will be equipped with far more than just a certificate to go into tertiary. Such a young person will be equipped with a high level of self belief. The educational system – which is totally dysfunctional – could also be the perfect structure within to teach masses more than just IQ. There is also EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and SQ (spiritual intelligence). It is my belief that the whole system needs an overhaul and if done properly, that it can massively and positively effect all social and economic issues in our country,” Marais says.
“I believe in living a life based on purpose and values. My life purpose inspired my vision for my life and this in turns lead to all my personal goals, all that points towards serving others. “
And that is why he uses his self belief to help others realise their potential. Once he’s completed running the Great Wall of China, Marais is setting his sights on Aconcagua – the highest mountain in the Americas.
Marais leaves on May 13. Anyone who would like to sponsor him one step at a time can contact him on: – firstname.lastname@example.org or 011 467 0785 or on Twitter @pepemarais