Man turns retrenchment despair into 365 'Ubuntu' walks up Table Mountain, raises over R300K for charities

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Andrew Patterson (From Andrew Patterson, Facebook)
Andrew Patterson (From Andrew Patterson, Facebook)

When Capetonian Andrew Patterson was retrenched it seemed his world had come tumbling down around him, but instead of curling up in a heap of despair, he walked up Table Mountain every day for a year to raise money for charity.

Speaking after taking some time out after his final walk on Dec 31, Patterson told News24 that when he heard the axe was going to fall at his job at a big beverage company, he was terrified. 

"It was nerve wracking. It was the worst time of my life," said Patterson.

Deep down he knew he was not getting anymore satisfaction out of the corporate world, but he was stuck in a cycle of just working to keep his salary. 

To fill his soul he had started volunteering for charities, and had spent the previous three years leading small groups up the mountain in his spare time.  

Stuck in traffic near the Good Hope Centre, with eight days left to final severance in 2017, he had an epiphany.

He decided he was going to walk up Table Mountain every day, and he was going to get people to sponsor him for charity while he did it. 

He was also going to try and get people to see South Africa and each other without negativity.

Because he had worked for a long time, he received a retrenchment package and had savings that he could live off if he managed his money carefully.

Walked through rain, scorching heat and pumping wind

"I also got rid of a lot of things - you know, those things around the house that you carry around every time you move but you never use," he said. 

He also changed his lifestyle to keep himself afloat financially. 

"I thought: 'If you squander all your money you will spend your life in debt and you will never be able to do it'."

And so, from January 1, 2018, he walked up Platteklip Gorge every day. 

He set up a BackaBuddy page, and solicited donations for three charities from people who wanted to walk with him - Habitat for Humanity, the Sunflower Fund and One Heart for Kids.

By the end, he raised R367 000 through his challenge which he called "365 UbuntuClimbs" and even though his one year quest has stopped, people are still donating towards his goal of raising R1m. 

BackaBuddy said that so far, books have been provided for three of the Western Cape’s poorest schools in Stellenbosch, Klapmuts and Kayamandi for the One Heart for Kids programme.

Through Habitat for Humanity, 10 families living in shacks in Baphumelele, Khayelitsha had their homes upgraded to be drier, safer and warmer.

Patterson was also involved in two donor drives for the Sunflower Fund that added 30 donors to their registry of stem cell donors to help people fighting blood diseases like leukemia.

He walked through rain, scorching heat, and the pumping Cape Town wind.

He also kept a video diary which he posted on Facebook detailing his physical, emotional and spiritual journey.

He said it was heartwarming to see people from all walks of life and levels of fitness make their way up the gorge with him, and he very quickly found that he had become less judgemental and more accepting of people.

He watched people push themselves beyond their own capabilities, which he found very humbling and inspiring. He said he also experienced ubuntu in abundance from the 8-year-old to the 73-year-old who walked with him. 

A highlight was walking with Lifa Hlongwa, who had been told he would never walk again after a rugby injury. Hlongwa proved his doctors wrong by working hard at the Sports Science Institute and walking with his crutches with Patterson.

Patterson's motto on his blog is: "If you have the opportunity to do amazing things in your life, bring someone with you."

In one of his vlogs (video blogs) he says the key to success is self-belief and even though there were days he did not think he would make it, he put one foot in front of the other and carried on. 

So what now for the man who calls himself a "deep thinker"?

He plans to spend time with his girlfriend Jessie Smith, who is from San Francisco in the US, and hopes to travel there to share his experiences and the life lessons he learned. 

He will continue with the talks he started giving at schools and clubs and will write a book based on his daily walking journal.

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