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Making a difference transforms founder of D4D



Stéphan Pieterse (left), who started the Distance for Difference initiative, and his brother Charl.

Stéphan Pieterse (left), who started the Distance for Difference initiative, and his brother Charl.

For Stéphan Pieterse, chief people officer at Pragma, a father of three girls, a Paul Roos Gymnasium and Stellenbosch University alumni, a Somerset West resident and founder of Distance for Difference (D4D), the inspiration came from footage of the Asian tsunami in December 2004.

“After seeing it, I asked myself what I can do to make a difference in this broken world? A world without hope and without answers to the hardship we so frequently experience?”

His simple answer was: Start running.

By finding sponsors for every kilometre he has run since January 2005, he and other athletes not only raised more than R50 000 in two years, but laid the groundwork for D4D.

The initiative has now been around for more than 12 years and has, through athletes running, cycling and swimming, raised some R5 million, which is donated mainly to charities focused on helping children.

“Our dream is for the children of South Africa to grow up in stable family environments where the fear of abuse or abandonment is absent, with access to quality education, so that they can become adults who can positively contribute to the future of South Africa and it’s people,” Stéphan says.

D4D raises funds in two ways. One is through individual athletes who find sponsors – friends, family members or colleagues – for every kilometre they run, cycle or swim during a year or for doing a specific event, like the Comrades Marathon, Cape Epic or the Ironman.

Secondly, they host three main fundraising events: THE500, hosted by D4D on a bi-annual basis and presented again this year in October, is a 24-hour cycling and spinning event, the Gratitude Run is a 5 km fun run and 5 hour, 5 km relay event organised by D4D and other charities on an annual basis. For the last six years they have also used the annual Cape Town Cycle Tour for fundraising.

Distance for Difference cyclists compete in THE500.

Distance for Difference cyclists compete in THE500.

D4D is a registered Section 21 company and nonprofit organisation. It has a board of seven directors, one of them Stéphan, who all have full-time occupations.

Time spent on D4D matters is pro bono and after-hours.

Atlantic Hope, Sylvia Frank’s Foster Care Centre, Little Angels, Patch Helderberg and the Uyavula Reading and Writing Project are a few of D4D’s recent beneficiaries.

Stéphan says his involvement with children in need and helping to create a better future for them has transformed his life. He has also learned the hard way that charity begins at home.

“There was a time in my life when I was so preoccupied with making a difference in the lives of others in need, that I failed to see the need the people closest to me had.”

He found the way forward by appointing an administrator and getting the D4D board to recommit to the cause. The lesson he learned from this: Live a life of significance, but make sure it starts at home!

He says shifting your focus away from your own needs to those of others, however, will change your life forever.

“Your character will be transformed. I can guarantee that. Today I am still writing my story and I am still being transformed on a daily basis.”

He encourages others that want to live a life of significance and make the world a better place to start as soon as possible and to perhaps take the first steps with D4D as a partner.


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