Thursday, January 20, 2011

Feel It, It's Here: Longtom Marathon 2011

It's that time of year again! Time for me to strap on my running shoes in 100-degree heat and start training to walk/run the Longtom Marathon in support of the Kgwale Le Mollo Foundation.

The annual Longtom Marathon is a 56 kilometre race through the Longtom pass in the mountains of Mpumalanga. I will be participating in the half-marathon, same as last year. Yup, that's right, I'm preparing to spend the better part of 3 hours panting under the African sun... again. As tiring as it was, the marathon filled with quirks that I look forward to experiencing once more. Last year, I wound up spending a few kilometres behind a woman who was not only smoking during the race, but carrying a monkey in her backpack. Only in Africa. I'm more than willing to crawl out of bed at 4 am to see that again. Longtom is also the only event organized by PCVs that brings together volunteers from different cohorts, so the social aspect is a big draw as well. Most importantly though, is that the money we raise goes to Kgwale Le Mollo.

All the books, computers and textbooks in the world would hardly improve many of the schools in South Africa. Too many of them are just pits of dysfunction, and learners, no matter how smart and ambitious, are lost before they even get started. KLM plucks these students from failing schools and provides them with scholarships to Uplands College, one of the best prepatory schools in South Africa. At Uplands, students not only receive quality instruction in the core subjects of the South African curriculum, but are also provided with various enrichment activities including sports, music, chess and community service. I have never visited Uplands, but other volunteers have and their reports are nothing short of glowing regarding both the school and the current scholarship recipients.

I would love to make the argument that taking the best students out of public schools is a disservice to the students left behind. I would love to be able to say that the resources of KLM would be better spent improving state-sponsored education. But I can't. Because neither of those things are true. I wish they were. I wish that improving the education system here was as easy as throwing in a handful of exemplary students and building a library, but it's not. The bright students are too often hindered by their overburdened instructors, and books alone won't teach anyone to read. For the time being, shifting the smart kids to an environment where success is all but guaranteed is the best that we can do for them.

There are two ways to donate.

Method 1: Online
1. Visit the KLM website at
2. Click the donate photo in the upper left corner
3. Follow instructions (please make sure to put my name in the Longtom Marathon field)

Method 2: Snail Mail
1. Make a check out to Kgwale Le Mollo
2. Add a post-it stating that the volunteer you are supporting is Kelsey Soeth
3. Mail to:
KLM Foundation
c/o Bowen Hsu
461 So. Bonita Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91107

We raised nearly four hundred dollars last year which was absolutely awesome. Let's try to do it again this year.

Thank you!

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