Former homeless refugee, Arafat Gatabazi – who fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo on foot, to find freedom in South Africa – will head out to the open water in support of South African school kids. It’s yet another selfless challenge from the youngster who unbelievably couldn’t even swim when he first arrived in SA at the age of 17.
Last year Arafat completed a charity swim around Robben Island to raise funds for LifeLine Western Cape. This year he plans to swim from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay to raise funds for Breadline Africa, on 16 September 2017.
All funds raised will go towards providing a dedicated container classroom for Imizamo Yethu Educare Centre in Khayelitsha.
“Education is so important, especially for the kids growing up in this area who will so benefit from having a safe classroom to learn in,” says Arafat.
“I so hope I can raise the funds through this swim… as at the moment the shack they are in is cramped, leaking and cold.” The Centre, which is structurally unsafe apart from not being waterproof, takes care of 45 children.
“These kids are the future of South Africa,” he says, “and I have realised that if I cannot make a difference yet in my country, I will make a difference in the country where I came to seek refuge, after escaping the war in my country.”
Arafat fled from his homeland in October 2012, leaving behind his parents and two of his siblings after the M23 troops entered their village.
To this day, he remains hopeful of being reunited with his family one day.
Arriving in Cape Town after crossing five countries and covering approximately 3,400 km, Arafat and his two cousins, who fled with him, were eventually relocated to The Homestead, a registered non-profit organisation helping street children reconstruct their shattered lives.
Marion Wagner, Breadline Africa’s director, was an enthusiastic volunteer swimming instructor at The Homestead – and ignited a spark that has turned into a burning commitment to the lure of open water.
Marion clearly recalls the day in 2012 when she met Arafat at Long Street Baths and he asked if she could teach him butterfly. She recognised his ability and natural swimming style and he became her star pupil. It wasn’t long before she secured sponsorship for Arafat and he took to the cold waters of the Atlantic.
After suffering hypothermia on his first attempt, he completed the 7.5km swim from Robben Island to Bloubergstrand in 2015, wearing only a standard swimsuit, swimming cap and goggles, in accordance with FINA open water swimming rules. He was named the 2014 Open Water Swimmer of the Year by the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association.
Arafat lives his life by a simple maxim: “My advice is that nothing is impossible if you want do it – you just have to put in the effort and focus on what you’re doing. The most important thing is to know what you want to achieve in your swimming which also applies to everything you do in life.”
Let’s all come together and support Arafat’s cause.