1972 VW Beetle set to head from Jozi to Romania to raise funds for child heart surgeries

2019-06-29 08:49
Jonathan Cornes and Alex Staniland stand next to the Round Table beetle that will be embarking on a journey to Romania. (Supplied)

Jonathan Cornes and Alex Staniland stand next to the Round Table beetle that will be embarking on a journey to Romania. (Supplied)

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A 1972 VW Beetle will prove it has life in it yet when it embarks on a 14 500km journey from Johannesburg to Romania for a good cause.  

It is all part of an effort by Round Table Golden East 181 to raise funds and awareness for NGO the Boikanyo Foundation, which provides funding for life-saving heart surgeries for children in southern Africa. 

The Beetle, better known as the Boikanyo Bug, will be departing from Jozi on July 14 to make it in time for the Round Table International World meeting in Romania on August 24. 

To date, the foundation has raised R13.4m to fund more than 100 open-heart surgeries. 

Need for funds

Over the course of its journey, the Boikanyo Bug will cross 12 countries including Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Turkey before making its way to Romania.

While making its way through different countries, the Beetle will make several stops, spreading the word about the foundation as it tries to raise funds along the way. 

Gareth Coats, Round Table Golden East 181's project convener, said the organisation was incredibly excited to start the Boikanyo Bug's journey in aid of a good cause.

"We are extremely passionate about this project and hope to touch the lives of many children through funding their heart surgeries and giving them a new lease on life. We have been involved with the Boikanyo Foundation for 13 years, and that team of doctors are doing amazing work," he said. 

Coats added that there was a period when the number of surgery requests they were receiving was slim, but since entering in an arrangement with the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital in November 2018, they were now receiving a minimum of one request per week. 

The increase in requests for heart surgery funding saw a depreciation in financing and large-scale fundraising was then deemed necessary by the organisation. 

"We have undertaken this project as a way for us to gatecrash an international meeting like that and try and attract large-scale international funding into the fund so that we can do more surgeries and get the funds to last a bit longer," Coats told News24. 

He said by attending that meeting, they would get an opportunity to engage with more than 2 000 Round Table chapters from around the world and subsequently gain funds. 

Political unrest

While the journey will be an exciting one, there are a couple of obstacles, such as funding, to get the bug to Romania. 

"Due to political unrest in other countries, we have been forced to change routes, and in other countries, it is the cost of travelling through them," he said. 

Coats added that while they would keep Sudan on their route, for now, they have been told by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) that the bug would most likely not be allowed to enter the country.

He said it would board a ship from Eritrea in East Africa to get to Turkey if that was the case.

Coats added that private sponsors have been kind enough to put their hands in pockets to assist, saying the project also had to put alternative plans in place to avoid any chances of missing the meeting in Romania. 

"The availability of drivers was also an obstacle. We have two guys from Benoni donating their time to drive the bug up. We also have back-up drivers in some of the countries." 

For now, in preparation for the long journey, Coats said they were keeping their eyes on news and communicating with Dirco for any updates to make sure they cross the line successfully and raise the necessary funds. 

Why the Beetle? 

When asked why an SUV vehicle is not being used, which is faster and more reliable, Coats said the bug was all they had. 

The vehicle was donated to them by a former Round Table member from Benoni. 

"He [the car donor] mentioned to us that he had a Beetle in his collection of cars that is standing around, and he was prepared to donate it to us so that we could use it for fundraising purposes," he said. 

The initial plan for the bug was for it to be auctioned but because it would not be worth much, the organisation decided to rather use it to travel around as its campaigned to raise money.

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Read more on:    johannesburg  |  medical  |  health

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