Youth Voices: Lebogang Shange

Youth Voices: Lebogang Shange

Meet 25 year-old race walker Lebogang Shange from Orange Farm. Lebogang, a product of the Tuks High Performance Centre in Pretoria, is the driving force behind a township upliftment programme called 'Team Shange'. 

Lebogang Shange_gallo
File photo: Gallo Images

His initiative aims to assist aspiring young race walkers from disadvantaged backgrounds to realise their sporting dreams.

Although Lebogang's story has had a happy ending and the Tuks HPC race walker will realise his Olympic dream later this year when he competes at the Rio Olympics, he has never forgotten where he came from and the initiative was born out of the desire to give back to the community.

Having achieved so much in his life and identifying strongly with the struggles and challenges of today's youth, Lebogang felt he needed to give back to the children and together with his foster mother Brenda Wakfer and various other stakeholders, Team Shange was born.

He recalls how he had picked up chronic blistering and sore feet during his early racing days due to ill-fitting footwear and even raced barefoot in some instances.

The initiative, which got the backing of Central Gauteng Athletics, identified potential race walkers in the townships and aims to assist them with footwear, kit, transport to and from local races and coaching as well as equipping them with the confidence and belief they can make it.

Since graduating to the elite category in his chosen sport, Lebogang spends much of his time on intensive training and traveling to events abroad, but always finds time, when at home, to engage with the youngsters, offer his time and assist wherever possible.

In the two years since the launch of the programme, there are now 35 race walkers under their wing and the sport continues to flourish and grow.

Team Shange 1_supplied
Photo: Supplied

Due to his personal circumstances, Lebogang never managed to finish school, but cannot stress enough how, even for a career sports person, it is crucial.

To date, Lebogang has also succeded in securing bursaries for four of the children at the Tuks HPC High School in Pretoria, to complete their respective high school careers.

He believes that education is the biggest tool to fight poverty, but cautions that with all the negativity surrounding the country at present, it is still easy for the youth to get discouraged and give up their quest to better themselves.

Trevor Cramer spoke to Shange about his ongoing quest to make a lasting difference:

Team Shange 2_supplied
Photo: Supplied
Team Shange 3_supplied
Photo: Supplied

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