Raising Dough for the Kids of Kurland

As the 2023 Otter African Trail Run wound its way through the rugged but pristine terrain of South Africa’s Garden Route, it wasn’t just the breathtaking vistas and challenging trails that left a lasting impression. For Margie Harpur and her team of female bakers from Nature’s Valley, this iconic event became a beacon of community spirit and an opportunity to give back.

It all began when Margie, a devoted resident of Nature’s Valley, joined the fundraising committee of the Kurland School Project (known as the Kids of Kurland Foundation). This NPO has been tirelessly fundraising for over two decades to support education at the Crags Primary School in Kurland Village. With one of their main goals being to alleviate overcrowded classrooms by employing three additional teachers, Margie sought to enlist the support of the Otter African Trail Run‘s organizing team. Together, a plan was devised to purchase health muffins for participants, with all proceeds benefiting the good work done by the Kids of Kurland Foundation.

The Crags Primary School, built in 1981, is the only school in Kurland Village. It serves approximately 650 Afrikaans- and Xhosa-speaking pupils from Grade 1 to 9. Photo supplied.

With unbridled determination and enthusiasm, Margie rallied a team of local women to assist in what was later dubbed the ‘Otter African Muffin Bake’, with the assignment being to prepare three hundred muffins for participants and staff to snack on during the shuttle trip from Nature’s Valley to the start. Undeterred by the challenges of load-shedding, they experimented with recipes and settled on two nutritious options: date & banana, and date & apple. Their efforts culminated in a test run in August, with the event’s organizing team sampling the muffins during their annual route recce, concluding with an emphatic stamp of approval from the whole team.

The Otter African Trail Run event team recceing the Otter Trail in August 2023, to ensure the team is fully equipped for race day. Team members were fuelled by freshly baked banana and date muffins. Photo supplied by Faces.

As September dawned, the Valley bakers embarked on their mission, resolutely working to fill freezers with twenty dozen muffins in preparation for race week. Despite the inevitable obstacles, the delivery for the Challenge proceeded seamlessly; a testament to their dedication and resilience.

However, as the Race approached, Nature’s Valley was plunged into darkness by a full-day electricity outage. Pending five dozen muffins still needing to be baked, the bakers refused to be deterred. With bowls of muffin mix in hand, they sought refuge at a house equipped with a generator, working around the clock to deliver the outstanding order on time.

Their efforts were rewarded as the freshly baked muffins were eagerly devoured by runners, their generosity contributing to the success of the event and the support of the Kids of Kurland Foundation. The generosity extended even further when a group of Zimbabwean runners, moved by the cause, contributed an additional donation.

Since Kids of Kurland introduced additional teachers, class sizes have decreased to an average of 35-47 pupils. Although this is an improvement, it is still inadequate for optimal learning. Photo supplied.

The impact of Margie and her baking team has extended far beyond the event itself. Their camaraderie and collective action has inspired waves of community engagement in Nature’s Valley. From collecting and selling pre-loved books to running a Tombola Stall at the Valley Christmas Market, they continued to seek creative ways to support the Kids of Kurland.

In the wake of the “Otter African Muffin Bake,” our team strives to uphold our philosophy of leaving the near-pristine environment, and the communities that dwell in its midst, better for you having participated.