It is 8.30 am. The sun is beats down on the serene Western Cape landscape. The road to Van Rynsdorp is undulating, however this does not dampen the walkers’ excitement when they see the destination of the first 5km walk. A sea of faces, patiently awaiting the arrival of white microbuses interrupts the peaceful and silent landscape.
At 9 am, a crowd of around 400 people, wearing blue Discovery Health t-shirts and caps, take off on the first 5km fun walk. The Discovery Health Sports Heroes Walk Against AIDS (DHSHWAA) 2013 has officially begun! Today, on the first day of the walk the Van Rynsdorp community received an opportunity to meet their favourite South African sports heroes, participate in training clinics in numerous sport genres, and bond with each other.
The most moving event of the day was witnessing a queue of hundreds of community members patiently waiting outside the Right to Care tents. These people were eager to find out their HIV status. This moment illustrated the way in which sport can be used as a tool to bring a community together. As people stood and chatted in the queue, one could see how the HIV stigma, for a moment, did not exist.
As the DHSHWAA team waved goodbye to the smiling Van Rynsdorp community, the humbling experience seemed overwhelming. Exhausted, hungry, but fulfilled – the team began the drive back to Vredendal, to catch some much-needed sleep before tomorrow’s 5 am start.