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The Freedom Challenge Scholarship Fund

In 2010 Sean Woolnough was the guardian of a group of riders doing the Ride to Rhodes - the precursor to The Race to Rhodes. After their stay at Vuvu there was a discussion among his batch of riders about what they could do to help the school. The initial idea was to get them a television. This idea was fed back to David Waddilove the founder and then race director of the Freedom Challenge. David felt that the provision of a television for the school fell within the ambit of the education department and instead mooted the idea of starting a scholarship fund where pupils along the Maluti portion of the Ride to Rhodes route could be funded to attend the boarding school located at Mariazell Mission School which is located at the foot of the ridge below the support station of Malekhalonyane. This idea fit firmly into one of David’s founding principles - supporting communities along the route. 


Nikki McLeod, located near Matatiele, and involved in community developmental projects in the region together with the Mehloding Trust took up the challenge of getting the programme off the ground. Initially the fund fell under the auspices of an established foundation. Apart from charging admin fees the foundation added nothing to the initiative. With that in mind the Freedom Trail Foundation was established as its own Nonprofit Organisation. 


From that point forward the administration of the Foundation has been done on a zero fee basis. The net effect being that every cent raised goes to funding students. Direct deposits into the Foundations account strips away the overhead costs associated with the various fund raising apps. 


Allen Sharp has been at the helm of the administration since scholars have been attending Mariazell starting 2011. The ground work is done by Tsepo Lesholu who is remunerated by Chris and Julia. Apart from the work Tsepo does in keeping the relationship going between the race and the local communities he shoulders the responsibility of interacting with the chiefs, school principals and teachers, Mariazell, parents/guardians and the students. The combined efforts of Allen and Tsepo is the glue that keeps it all together and the oil that makes it run smoothly. 


The Race administrators who have followed David; Glenn and Meryl, and now Chris and Julia; have been steadfast supporters of the Fund.


So far the Fund has sponsored 72 scholars, representing 213 scholar years. Initially the sponsorship was for the final 3 years of high school but has since opted to admit students for 5 years. This gives the students a better chance of academic success.  Over the last few years a number of students have gone on to study at university. It’s worth mentioning that attending university, while a fair measure of academic achievement, is not the only goal. If students are able to go on and find employment or establish their own small businesses then those are equally acceptable outcomes. The school at Mariazell, while a zero fee government school, is run under the auspices of the church established at the mission. Apart from a good education students are exposed to discipline and respect. 


The support given to the various village schools along the trail hasn’t gone unnoticed by the local population. When it’s race season the first sighting of riders is texted along the trail - “The riders are here!” 


The funding of the FCSF has been done entirely by the ongoing support of riders and supporters of the various Freedom Challenge events. The generosity of this cohort is extraordinary. Year after year all it takes is the flimsiest excuse to spur them on to supporting the fund. 


Allen made an interesting comment the other day—“I don’t know if David realised the reach the race would have when he established it. The amount of people drawn into the Freedom Challenge extends far beyond the riders.”

By Mike Woolnough

FCSF banking details

Freedom Trail Foundation

First National Bank or FNB South Africa

Account Number: 62473449356

Reference: your name

Branch: Cresta

Branch Code: 250655

Swift code: FIRNZAJJ or FIRNZAJJXXX if your bank requires an 11-digit code

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