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The golden-hearted giver

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Philanthropist Gorata Phakedi felt she had no choice but to quit her job in the Delta when it conflicted with ‘what she does best’ – helping those in need.

The golden-hearted 32-year-old Mabutsane native has contributed immensely to her community through her charitable works.

She has big plans to do even more in the future.

In this interview with Voice Reporter, KABELO ADAMSON, Phakedi highlights both the hardships and joys in running One Another Charitable Society (OACS), an organisation that is moving mountains despite little financial muscle and no sponsors.

What inspired you to establish a charitable organisation?

This came after the realisation that Mabutsane is a small village and we were all well raised by our parents.

We asked ourselves what we were doing to say thank you to our village!

The idea is to leave behind a legacy because in the end we are going to leave this world.

It doesn’t make sense to earn a lot of money which is only for your satisfaction yet someone next to you is suffering.

Kindly share with us some of the initiatives that OACS has undertaken.

The society was officially registered in 2018 and we are based in Mabutsane. Basically we are a charitable organisation.

In our society, we have lots of activities that we undertake and the main one is a football tournament which we host annually during the Easter Holidays.

The tournament consists of teams from Mabutsane as well as those from neighbouring villages and we are hosting the tournament for the fourth time.

We don’t have any sponsors at the moment, which requires us to finance these activities from our pockets.

This year we decided that we are going to step back from the tournament a little and leave it for the teams to run.

But issues of logistics will always come back to us.

Any other schemes you oversee?

Yes, last year we introduced the Orphans Tea Sessions. When we started these sessions, the idea was to make it a national event.

This year already, six people from different villages have shown their interest in hosting the sessions.

The motivation behind this initiative was after losing my mother at the age of 26, I asked myself how must a six-year old in the same position feel.

So, the main purpose of the tea sessions initially was that we come together as orphans, share tea, experiences etc.

During our first session, people who lost their parents a long time back were able to find closure.

One thing I have picked up is that the reason some people are tormented by the passing on of their loved ones is that we don’t allow them to cry their feelings out.

Another initiative we have is that every December we give out 10 food hampers to 10 families in our village, each picked from the 10 wards that exist.

Those families are chosen by a Ward Headman.

Sounds interesting! So even without a sponsor, it seems you’re managing to make quite a difference?

Yes, I have also personally adopted a 2020 Form One class for Mabutsane Junior Secondary School and will be with them until they write their Junior Certificate exams, providing them with motivational talks during the period.

The reason why I have adopted the school is that it has been performing badly academically.

People believe by adopting a school one needs to have a lot of money, which is not true.

You can adopt it by providing motivational talks like I do. You can also organise fun days, especially for boarding students because it can be frustrating for those students – fact is one cannot spend the whole day reading!

Every year, during my birthday I hold an initiative towards improving other people’s lives.

GOLDEN-HEARTED GIVER: Gorata Phakedi

Personally I do not spare any money towards the celebration of my birthday; instead I am the one who gives.

This is something I do during my birthday which comes on the 10th of February and every year I run a campaign towards this cause.

Putting a smile on someone’s face is what makes me sleep peacefully at night.

We don’t have much but we try and this is the whole point of OACS!

How does the organisation survive without a sponsor?

We finance activities from our pockets honestly. We have approached many companies but it seems like they do not understand what we do.

But we are hopeful something positive will come up this year.

I believe having done these activities for the past three years, someone out there will be convinced this is something they can put their money in.

Other than the financial challenges really we have a support base in Mabutsane and would be honest to say we have many other challenges besides that.

It’s obvious you have a passion for humanitarian work. Is this something you were born with or did it develop as you grew up?

My mother was a giver but she never forced us to give. I personally learnt the importance of giving, especially giving and expecting nothing in return.

You give because you want to make a difference in somebody’s life, not because you want someone to see that you have given!

I am mentoring one guy who I am very proud of. He donated a house which he built with what he earns from Tirelo Sechaba!

He doesn’t earn much, but because he understands the concept of giving, he did it.

I always tell the people that I mentor that I don’t have money, but only heart to give and it is love which drives me every day.

I had to quit my job last year where I was working in the safaris in the Okavango Delta.

I had planned the Orphan Tea Session and had scheduled it to coincide with my off-days.

Shockingly, when it was my time to go on off, I was told I am not going anywhere!

I had to write a 24-hour notice because, although I was getting a salary, they wanted to hinder me from doing what I believe fulfills my heart.

And thus my first Tea Session went ahead.

When you are not busy with charitable works, what are you up to?

It’s not like I am anti-social or anything, but when I relax I will just be home.

And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

I will be going to Hukuntsi to bury my mentor who has sadly passed on.

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Simply the greatest

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*THE HUMBLE HISTORY MAKER

With her career seemingly drifting into oblivion, stained by a failed drugs-test six years ago, the country’s most decorated athlete produced arguably her greatest comeback earlier this month.

On 14 March, at a low key University of Botswana Athletics Club meet, former 400m World Champion Amantle Montsho qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (now postponed until 2021).

Displaying the determination and guts that has defined her time on the track, the 36-year-old defied her aging limbs, clocking 51.22 seconds to smash the required qualifying time of 51.35. In doing so, the Maun native once again carved her name into the history books, becoming the first Motswana to qualify for four Olympics.

Having missed out on a place at the last Games due to suspension, for Montsho it represents redemption of sorts and a final shot at a medal she was .03 of a second away from claiming at London 2012.

The current Commonwealth Champion sat down with Voice Sport’s Portia Mlilo to look back over her eventful career, a career that might contain one more incredible high.

Who inspired you to become a professional athlete?

I joined athletics when I was doing Standard Three in 1992 and by then I was doing it for fun. Our Coach at Bonata Primary School, Thobogang recognized my talent and nurtured it.

I started running 100m and 200m but by junior school I focused on 400m. When I finished my Form Five in 2003, Botswana Athletics Association called me for out of school camps and that was when I started to take it seriously.

I started competing in regional competitions. In 2006, International Athletics Federation (IAF) called me to train at their high performance training center at Dakar in Senegal.

Why did you choose to be a runner?

Athletics is the number one sport in the world followed by football. In football, when you win as a team you share the prize money while in athletics the money is all mine (laughing).

There are also many athletics competitions in a year in different countries and that is why I decided to be a professional runner.

I used to play softball but after one of my teammates got injured I decided to quit and focused on athletics.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

I run! (laughing). I wake up, take a shower, eat breakfast and go for training.

Is there any athlete who motivates you to do your best during competitions?

There is a lady who makes me take athletics seriously, the American track and field athlete, Allyson Felix.

She is the 2012 Olympic Champion, a three-time World Champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist. She really inspires me.

I always wanted to be a champion like her!

What do you regard as your most memorable race to date?

The World Championships in Daegu 2011 when I won the Gold medal. When approaching the finishing point I really enjoyed the moment.

It was very competitive and I was fit. I was with Felix at the front and I managed to beat her.

What is your favourite part of being on the track?

I enjoy it when I compete with the best athletes and when the fans cheer us on.

Most Batswana used to follow and support football and were not too bothered about other sports codes.

But I made them like athletics and take it into consideration!

I enjoy most when I approach the finishing line because I go all out from 150m. I also enjoy when there is an athlete who gives me competition.

Massive congratulations on being the first athlete from Botswana to qualify for four Olympic Games. How much does this mean to you?

This really means a lot. It shows I am doing something right. I had so many challenges in this career but I remained focused and do what I love most.

I am very thankful to our government, Botswana National Sport Commission, Botswana Olympic Committee, our association for giving me the necessary support to become a professional athlete.

This should be an inspiration to others, especially female athletes, because we go through a lot of challenges. You are expected to be married, have kids – people forget you also have other interests like sports career!

What makes a great athlete?

Discipline, determination, dedication and focus. You must have goals and set targets to achieve them. You have to follow your coach’s instruction.

Growing up, I was very disciplined. I missed out on a lot of things that young people considered ‘cool’.

I did not drink alcohol or smoke. It was only two years back when I could have a glass of wine, drinking not to get drunk.

You should be careful what you eat and drink. You must be disciplined, otherwise your career will be very short!

You mentioned your Gold medal World Championship winning run as your most memorable race. How did it change your life financially, professionally and socially?

My life changed. I was now the country’s diamond, a role model so I had to do things professionally.

I even had to be careful what I shared on social media because now I had a large following, both locally and internationally.

Amantle Montsho

After winning Gold, I had a few endorsements and Nike increased its sponsorship. We have seen a lot of athletes struggling with life after sports so I decided to invest in property with the money I was making from athletics. So far I have six houses in Block 7 Gaborone.

What are the biggest challenges you face as a top athlete in Botswana?

Lack of facilities! Athletics is a big sport and it is high time the country establish a high performance centre.

The other challenge is when you do not deliver as the nation had expected during major competitions.

People will start bashing you and put you under a lot of pressure.

Money and fame often make people lose focus – how do you ensure you are not led into temptation?

Like I said, discipline is important. Refrain from things that will ruin your career. Avoid unnecessary trips and misusing money.

Invest for the future and do not lose focus. In life you should know what you want then it will not be easy for someone to shift your focus.

Just remain humble, respect others and manage your finances well.

How do you relax during the off-season?

I love travelling so I visit my friends in other countries. I also go shopping, especially when I have stress.

I make sure I spend time with my parents and my siblings.

The 2020 Olympics have been postponed until next year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. How is this going to affect your form and what are you going to do to ensure you remain fit?

It is unfortunate that the games are postponed to 2021 due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

I am on form and I was ready to compete. Now facilities, stadiums are closed and we do not have access to the track.

The President has also announced social extreme distancing, which is going to make it difficult to do roam work.

I will be indoor training at my house to keep fit – fortunately I have a gym.

Realistically, what was your target for the Tokyo Olympics?

My target was an Olympic medal. I had trained very hard to win a medal. This was supposed to be my last competition.

I believe I have done my part in sports and it is time to quit. I still have to talk to my coach and see if I will compete next year since I have qualified.

We’ve touched on some of the highs of your career. At the other end of the scale, what has been your most disappointing experience as an athlete?

Eish, the doping case! I tested positive for a prohibited substance methylhexaneamine at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

That was the worst experience I have ever had. In 2015 I received a two-year ban.

I couldn’t go home because I was afraid; my father was very angry. I also had to hide from the media and the public.

I will be forever grateful to the government for engaging a psychologist!

I stayed at the hotel for two year and I even changed my number. I couldn’t go to the mall or interact with people.

At some point I thought of quitting. The psychologist advised me not to and I also believed I can bounce back.

After three months I started training on my own because one of the conditions was that the association was not suppose to help me with anything.

I made a great come back and in 2017 I qualified for the World Championships.

How did it happen?

I went to a pharmacy in Gaborone to buy an energy drink. The pharmacist recommended the drink and said it does not have any prohibited substances. I was so depressed.

How do you intend to spend your retirement?

I want to start my own academy. I want to turn one of my houses into an athletics academy.

This is a way of giving back to my country and contributing to athletics development. I was supposed to start athletics coaching course after this year’s Olympics.

And finally, Thank God It’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?

Extreme social distancing. I will be locked in my room.

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Entertainment

Kabelo tiro drops Chuchumakgala

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KABELO TIRO

Afro pop musician, kabelo Tiro aka Skavenja has released a 16- track album dubbed, Chuchumakgala.

The choreographer and Fashion Designer has not ditched his style of Afro pop that made him a star in the entertainment industry.

The album has songs such as, Rato lame, Ke Shy, Morate and Ntho Yame amongst others.

He features Philey in the title track and also worked with Tshepo Lesole, Emjoe and Beekay Productions.

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