In less than a month a team of 12 ordinary, yet remarkable people will embark on an adventure that sounds nothing short of impossible…

Nicolene and her OCAL team will embark on an incredible challenge to raise awareness about misperceptions of ‘differently abled’ people

These participants will endure an incredible non-stop, 24-hour challenge that spans 2 200 km over a 10-day period, on their feet.

Now in its fourth year, the OCAL (One Chance at Life) Global Journey for Change aims to raise awareness about the misperception regarding people with disabilities and to raise funds, so desperately needed for so many individuals effected in South Africa.

The challenge will start in Tswane (Pretoria), make its way through the Kalahari, hug the border of Namibia, the Cederberg Mountains and will then culminate at FNB 12 OneRun, in Cape Town on the 19th of May.

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OCAL Global founder, Nicolene Anley, established the NPO after a life-altering experience in Tanzania

She was part of a team who took disabled athletes up Kilimanjaro, including a world first – a triple amputee. She recalls, “I studied, worked, modelled – I tried it all. However it was right there, at Kilimanjaro it came as an epiphany and I immediately decided I was going to make a difference in the world.”

“Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes”

Nicolene went to work immediately and spent years in the heart of some of South Africa’s most impoverished communities where she had the opportunity to research and identify the *shortfalls and needs of people with disabilities, particularly children. She soon realised that the state of the support system for mentally and physically differently abled children in our country is very little to non-existent.

The NPO, One Chance at Life (OCAL) Global, was founded in order to try and bridge this gap, project by project; ranging from basic health care, mobility, early childhood development programmes and safe houses.

When talking about the annual OCAL Global Journey for Change, she emphasises, “People are disabled not because of their conditions, but largely due to the fact that they live in an inadequately adaptable world. The OCAL Global Journey for Change aims to highlight that people living with disabilities are not broken, but only ‘differently abled’ and deserve the right to mobility, health care, education and a brighter, more sustainable future.”

The Northern Cape has been identified as the province with the highest prevalence of persons with disabilities in South Africa (11%), particularly children.

These children have physical disabilities most commonly resulting from cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, amputations, genetic syndromes, spinal injuries and traumatic brain injuries. Unfortunately, rural areas such as those in the Northern Cape are near impossible to manage. Even basic infrastructure is a challenge, let alone flight routes or public transport to and from larger metropoles. Often children are left undiagnosed due to a lack of medical facilities or access to healthcare professionals. These children are the most vulnerable of the community and are often neglected and abused.

133 children in the region with immediate, short and long terms needs have already been named as beneficiaries of the 2019 challenge.

“People are disabled not because of their conditions, but largely due to the fact that they live in an inadequately adaptable world”

Anley is clear, “This is not an attack on government, but rather an opportunity to have positive conversations, mobilise the public and corporate sectors and offer a platform for active citizenship.”

The event has already received much local and global interest since starting in 2016 and this year no less than 7 000 applications were received from all over the world to participate.

59 People were selected based on strict criteria and, after interviews were conducted, a team of twelve were announced.

This year’s team again consists of both physically abled and disabled participants and will be split into a day team and night team, each on foot for a gruelling 110kms in remote locations. Run in relay style these teams relieve each other every twelve hours for no less than ten days.

As the event organiser and founder, Nicolene, certainly walks the walk!

As an athlete herself, she has participated in the annual Journey for Change, every year. This will be her fourth. Nicolene describes the journey: “The team will no doubt face extreme challenges on their journey – from sore bodies and self-doubt, to soaring temperatures and driving rain. However, during their darkest hour they will endure, knowing that their efforts will not be in vain. It will be to bring forth remarkable change to people’s lives.”

A defining moment for Nicolene was how incredible it felt to give a 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, the gift of mobility with the funds raised from a previous race.

She explains “For 12 years his mom was carrying him everywhere, so for his entire life, until then, he was waiting for a buggy (modified wheelchair). Giving him and his mom the freedom of movement and mobility on was nothing short of magic!”

OCAL continuously looks for funding and partners in making a sustainable long-term change in the lives of these most vulnerable children

“We’re incredibly grateful to have PUMA and DSC Attorney’s already on board as sponsors for this year’s challenge and would like to thank them wholeheartedly. We trust that other brands will follow in their example and change lives in ways that words cannot explain,” comments Anley.

The proceeds raised this year will be used to immediately improve the mobility and day-to-day living needs of the 113 children identified in the Northern Cape. Wheel chairs, walkers, prosthetics, crutches and other requirements will be purchased and implemented in consultation with the occupational therapist partners.