World-renowned endurance swimmer, Lewis Pugh, has inspired and encouraged staff from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU) to rise above their challenges and work together to tackle HIV/AIDS.
"I want to salute you for the work that you do. As HIV counsellors, you are tackling one of the biggest issues of our generation," Pugh told about 400 staff from the DTTC during a team-building session at SU.
Pugh has pioneered swims in the most hostile and freezing waters, from the North Pole and the Himalayas to the Antarctic. As Patron of the Oceans for the United Nations, he is passionate about boosting efforts to protect the world's oceans. He has completed a long distance swim in every ocean in the world.
"People say things are impossible. But that's nonsense. When you have grit, determination, 'gees', a good level of planning and preparation and you put your shoulder to the wheel, you are able to achieve things that people say are impossible."
"Just like Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada were prepared to tackle the big issue of their generation – apartheid, you as HIV counsellors are taking on one of the biggest issues facing South Africa - HIV."
Pugh encouraged staff involved in the HPTN 071 (PopART) study to keep motivated in their goal to prevent HIV. During their work in the community, staff frequently have to work through all weather conditions, from blazing heat and gale force winds to pouring rain.
Pugh also warned of the dangers of climate change which he said would affect every single person on the planet.
Staff said they were uplifted and encouraged by Pugh's speech, as well as a video which showed him facing his fears and plunging into the icy seas at the North Pole.
Pugh said he was inspired to speak to the DTTC because of his love and respect for the patron of the Centre, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Blia Yang, one of the project managers from the DTTC, who arranged the event, said she was very grateful that Pugh had given of his time to inspire everyone.
"He is a master story teller and was able to weave in stories that were inspirational, heart-breaking and very beautiful. He was able to tell them in a way that our staff could relate to in their monumental task to prevent HIV in our communities."
This is what DTTC staff had to say about Lewis Pugh's speech:
Anele Klaas, Community HIV Care Provider (HIV Counsellor): Thank you to Lewis for providing us with such motivation. I feel so privileged to have met him. My highlight was when he said, "There is nothing as powerful as a made up mind."
Jerry Molaolwa, District Manager: Thank you to Lewis for reminding us that during trying times, anything is achievable.
Francoinette Esau, District Manager: HIV is the challenge of our generation. Working on the HPTN 071 (PopART) study, we realise we are doing something extraordinary. It was very inspiring.
Yvonne Saunders, Site Manager: It was inspiring to hear about how he faced his fear. Fear nearly overpowered him, but he rose above it.
Jackie Hlalukana, District Manager: I loved what he said about being inspired by others too…that every person on his team in the Arctic helped to achieve their goal. We can reach goals together.
Elize Batist, Trainer: I found it profound. He related it to the epidemic we are facing. We are all part of the struggle and he has given us tools to be inspired and encouraged.
Thabisa Bike, Community HIV Care Provider: He reminded me of my goal to help to reduce the rate of HIV in my community. Every day I want to prove that it's possible to reduce HIV.
Confidence Mohlafuno, Community HIV Care Provider: It was very emotional. We have to learn that nothing is impossible.
Wendy Phaliso, Community HIV Care Provider: If you can dream it, you can achieve it.
Nangamso Mzondi, Community HIV Care Provider: I learnt that you should not always listen to what other people might say. Believe in yourself. Trust in yourself.
Ricardo Felix, Senior Logistics Officer: I got chills just listening to Lewis talk about what he had faced. His talk was powerful and generated morale.