Mountain hikes to inspire children

Mountain hikes to inspire children

Cape Town – A WESTERN Province runner and crime fighter, who has completed nine Comrades and nine Two Oceans marathons, has started a hiking project for children at risk to enjoy the beauty of mountain trails.

Last year Youssef Kanouni, 46, who is the chairperson of the Woodstock Community Policing Forum, made headlines when he completed a virtual half marathon inside his home within two hours and ran 22 kilometres within 53 minutes.

All professional marathons, such as the Two Oceans marathon, have been cancelled due to the global pandemic.

But Kanouni won’t let restrictions keep him down.

Youssef Kanouni of the Woodstock Community Policing Forum has started an initiative called Beautiful Hike, taking troubled children off the streets on hikes. Picture: Supplied

When parks and mountain routes were reopened following lockdown restrictions, Kanouni decided he would share his love for nature with people, especially children at risk.

He decided to start an initiative called Beautiful Hike, which began with 30 people from Woodstock and Walmer Estate.

Kanouni is also part of the Parliament Athletics Club and is a Western Province Pace Setter, which assists with the start of races and events.

He now hopes to rope in disadvantaged children and troubled youngsters.

“I just need one more race, then I have completed my green band, for the Comrades which is 10 races in total,” he said.

“God gave us nature to use, not abuse it. Often people visit these mountainous areas for drug and alcohol usage. My aim is to show the youth and the community the beauty of mountains to keep them away from the dangers out there like drugs and alcohol and gangs.

“I want to show them that it does not matter where you come from, you can achieve your goals in sport even like our sport legends and sport personalities like Wayde van Niekerk or former South African footballer Benni McCarthy.

“On Sunday, I even took housewives with me, the only exercise people are getting is from the kitchen to the couch to the television and the youth who are in front of electronics all the time.”

Kanouni said the hikes were between three and four hours and safety was paramount. “I am also educating the youth about the dangers of the mountain. Never hike alone and always make sure you have a good supply of fresh water, fruit and food.

“Never hike without data or airtime so you can contact emergency services. Make sure you have the proper shoes meant for mountain terrain, including gloves and a wind breaker.”

Kanouni said they were hoping to recruit more children. “We started with the children in our community and they are as young as eight,” he said.

“My main objective is to take children away from the bad elements in our communities like the drugs and alcohol and show them the beauty of the mountains we have right here ”.

A Walmer Estate resident and parent, Waseemah Achmat, 35, joined the hike last Sunday with her eight-year-old son, Niyaaz.

She is also a member from the Walmer Athletics running club and said the hike was a good way to keep fit. “This is initiative is keeping our children away from the electronics. I have been living in this community for 35 years and never would I have dreamed I would be fit enough to hike to blockhouse (in Newlands).”

Weekend Argus