People's Post

‘Small people do big things’

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Children who formed part of the 9Miles Project’s initiatives in the dinghies at the Strandfontein Tidal Pools. PHOTOS: Colin Fitch Photography
Children who formed part of the 9Miles Project’s initiatives in the dinghies at the Strandfontein Tidal Pools. PHOTOS: Colin Fitch Photography

The Little Optimist Global Challenge has seen history being made as dinghies (optimists) sailed in the Strandfontein Tidal Pool recently.

Run by the Little Optimist Trust, the challenge this year changed its format due to Covid-19 protocols.

Sailors, both professional and avid were encouraged to sail one of their optimists on any body of water between Friday 9 and Sunday 18 October to raise funds for charity and help inspire at-risk youth.

The 9Miles Project was one of the organisation which joined the challenge, sailing their own optimist in the tidal pool on Monday 12 October with 20 local children who are part of the project’s after school programme.

The Little Optimist Trust, which offers sailing therapy to vulnerable children, was founded by Greg Bertish, who at age 31 underwent open heart surgery to remove an undiagnosed and unculturable tropical bacteria that had attacked his aortic heart valve. He spent more than 200 days in hospital and on his release was inspired to do good. “In April 2016, as a middle aged, multiple cardiac surgery survivor, on the blood thinner Warfarin, I sailed a tiny children’s optimist dinghy over 200km in the open ocean. This represented each day I had spent in hospital. My aim was to show people that small people can do big things.

“We inspired patients, kids and others to never ever give up, and we raised R300 000 for the new ICU (intensive care unit) at Red Cross Children’s Hospital,” says Bertish in a statement published to their website.

Now they aim to save children’s lives by inspiring them to get better, to teach them a skill, to create a passion and to raise funds and awareness for associated charities.

Nigel Savel, founder of the 9Miles Project, says: “We have been involved with The Little Optimist Trust for the past two to three years, and founder Greg Bertish, has always been amazing about including our 9Miles children in their activities – whether it is sailing at Zeekoevlei or the V&A Waterfront, or fun-filled visits to the aquarium.”

Last year was the first time 9Miles Project participated in the annual charity challenge.

“We raced a 9Miles Project optimist sponsored by Victron Energy in the Great Optimist Race which took place as part of the Cape Town International Boat Show in 2019. Because of lockdown, the race took on a new format this year and individuals and organisations participated in challenges at a location of their choice. We chose our beautiful headquarters at Strandfontein Pavilion and, to our knowledge, made history by being the first people to ever sail a boat in the tidal pool,” says Savel.

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