At exactly 4am, cyclist Stewart Kambewa left Kameza in Blantyre on Saturday heading for Lilongwe on his bicycle.
Kambewa was to cover the 320 kilometre (km) journey in a day, a feat that probably no Malawian had ever managed before. No wonder many doubted if Kambewa would manage the challenge.
But nobody knew the belief that lay in him and the commitment and value that he placed on the cause he was cycling for. It was only when he began covering the miles that his selfless spirit and dedication became evident. To him this was a possibility.
Kambewa had entered the challenge to cycle to Lilongwe to help raise funds for mothers and babies from Ntchisi as part of this year’s Mother’s Fun Run, an initiative aimed at improving safe motherhood in the country championed by Nation Publications Limited (NPL).
He was seen off at Kameza by his close friends, work colleagues and family members, including his wife, sister, mother and daughter who accompanied him on the journey. By 5:20am he was at Zalewa.
By 8:25am he was at Chingeni in Balaka. He arrived at Ntcheu boma by 10:45am. He was in Dedza by 17:10pm. And he completed his challenge in 13 hours 14 minutes, arriving at City Mall in Lilongwe at 22:20 hours.
From Blantyre he started off with six fellow cyclists who escorted him all the way to Chingeni. From there another colleague joined him until Ntcheu. Along the way people offered their support. At Kabwazi in Ntcheu, Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) communications officer Ephraim Nyondo donated K10 000.
A huge crowd, which included NPL chief executive officer (CEO) Mbumba Banda, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma, WaterAid country director Mercy Masoo and First Merchant Bank brands manager Brian Mungomo Jnr, among others, welcomed him on his arrival.
He said on his arrival: “The fact that you stayed here as late as this waiting for me shows that you believed that I could do this. We are all here for a good reason and that is to save lives. That is why I joined this challenge.
“Thanks to my employers for the support. My family which has always been behind me. But most of all thanks to NPL for giving me this chance, I will never forget this moment. Let us join this initiative, let us save lives.”
In an emotional but moving speech, Banda saluted Kambewa for investing his efforts in the promotion of self-motherhood.
“Stewart you are blessed. What you have done will come back to you tenfold. It is so difficult to express just what this means. We have worked on this for 15 years, I have not seen something as special as this. You may never know how many lives you have served,” said Banda as she struggled to fight back tears from her eyes.
She urged well-wishers to join the cause, saying there is a lot that needs to be done to improve health provision in the country and save lives of mothers and children.
Banda said: “Women and children are dying every day. Clearly, there is still a lot that needs to be done. There are sleep-overs that have happened, if you go to these government institutions, you will find that there is not enough equipment, members of staff, medicine; and water is not running, electricity is not there. Things as simple as a thermometer or a BP machine are not available. There is a lot that we can do individually but there is a whole lot more that we will gain by doing things together.”
In her remarks, Masoo said Kambewa demonstrated that if people come together to show their right spirit, challenges that beset Malawi can be conquered.
She said: “He has pushed the initiative to a new level altogether. He has really conquered this challenge. If people will not hear of the need that is out there to help with what he has done then they will never hear and appreciate.”
The cyclist, an employee of FMB Bank, targeted to raise K20 million from the challenge. So far over K3 million has been raised. FMB Bank has donated K2 million towards the cause while Vanguard Insurance Company donated K300 000.
Masoo donated K200 000, Kenneth Matupa K100 000 and Nyanyiwe Harawa donated $50 (about K37 000). The photoshoot session with Kambewa which happened after his arrival in Lilongwe, raised K400 000.
Rab Processors Company provided water while WaterAid provided a vehicle which carried Kambewa’s first aid team, family members and his mechanic. Ntcheu Puma Filling Station provided drinks and Truecolour Media Film documented the whole journey.
On behalf of FMB, Mungomo said they are proud of what Kambewa achieved and it is their hope that it will spur many othes to do the same.