19 July 2024

By Nabeelah Shaikh

She may be only 15 years old, but Zahra Salajee’s heart is set on making a difference and serving humanity.

The Durban teenager is gearing up to participate in the Cape Town Marathon’s 10km “Peace Run’’ all in the name of feeding the poor.

The marathon is set to be held over two days on October 14-15 in the Mother City.

Zahra will be running in support of the Non-Profit Organisation, Penny Appeal South Africa Feed Our World project which aims to provide vital food packs to society’s most vulnerable.

“Running has always been more than just a hobby to me and this year I get to help make a difference whilst doing what I love,” said Zahra.

The Cape Town Marathon will be Zahra’s first official race.

“I’m excited to do this because I started running this year, and with running, you realise how important nutrition is. A lot of people in South Africa and around the world don’t have access to basic food items – and nutritious food is important to get them through the day. By doing this initiative, I would be able to help solve this problem and help create food security,” said Zahra.

In the run-up to the marathon, Zahra has been dedicating many hours to training for the big day.

“I have been following a training plan. I’m not an elite athlete or runner, but I try to follow my plan. I run with my school during the weekends. I’m also kind of intimidated because it’s my first time doing this, and I’m nervous because there will be lots of people participating. It’s a mix of emotions for me right now,” said Zahra.

She told Al-Qalam she saw this as an excellent opportunity to make her mark in the world.

“Humanitarian work has always been close to my heart. I started volunteering with Penny Appeal SA when I was 10 years old and my family has always been involved in volunteering and charity work, so I kind of always grew up, knowing it and being exposed to it. I also grew up being grateful for everything I have so I want to use that gratitude to give back and to make others feel happy. I want to use it to provide for the less fortunate,” said Zahra

She said by participating in the run, they’ll be using the money to provide food packs for families in Cape Town.

“I’m also going to be involved in distributing the packs after the race. People should please donate because a small change is going to make a big difference. This is something that Penny Appeal SA often emphasizes. Don’t see charity as a burden. Whatever you can give, will make a huge difference to someone’s life.”

She said having started running earlier this year; she was motivated to use this hobby as a platform for awareness and to do good.

“For me, it was tough to find something that I enjoyed. I usually start a lot of things and I don’t complete them. But I think you should find something you are truly passionate about and make that a part of your life. For me, it was these two things: running and volunteering. Those things will always be a part of my life. And you should use it in ways that make a difference. You also shouldn’t feel scared to use the support around you to positively impact the world,” said Zahra.

On the GivenGain crowd-funding website, by Monday this week, Zahra had already reached over 80% of her fundraising goal. On the platform, donors praised her efforts and wished her well for her participation.

One person commented: “All the best Zahra! You got this, one step at a time. We are all rooting for you and are very proud of your dedication and passion to bring about change.”

Zahra’s mother, Rakeeba Salajee, said she was very proud of her daughter’s efforts.

“Zahra is very disciplined when it comes to her training. She put her mind to something and she’s been very determined and passionate to complete it. She wants to achieve what she set out to do and she balanced the preparations with her busy days and school work. Because she started running at the beginning of the year and started enjoying it, she thought why not take a chance and participate in this initiative for a good cause.”

Those wishing to support Zahra’s campaign can do so by donating to her online platform: https://www.givengain.com/ap/zahra-salajee-raising-funds-for-penny-appeal-south-africa-sctm2023/#timeline Or contact Penny Appeal SA on 0814072753.

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