Loretta's selfless birthday wish
HEALTHIER: She gave up alcohol for a healthy lifestyle

Actress to walk 30 kms for charity on her 30th.

Mention birthdays and one immediately conjures images of cake, presents, parties and fun-filled, glutinous celebrations.

For milestone birthdays, such as turning 30, this pomp and fanfare is often drastically, even perversely magnified.

However, selfless local actress Loretta Mekgwe, who turns 30 on July 12, intends to mark the significant date in an altogether different manner.

To celebrate her birthday, Mekgwe, together with supporters, will embark on a charity walk billed #30 for 30 – she will walk 30 kilometres to raise funds for underprivileged youth in the country.

The multi-talented actress, who also works as a voice-over artist, social entrepreneur and programme producer at Gabzfm attributes her generous spirit to her close-knit family.

“I was raised in an extended family and there was always a lot of sharing and giving to others. My grandmother and aunt were extremely accommodating and always found a way to be helpful. Their acts of kindness grew on me and to this day I always try to find ways to help, especially when it comes to children,” explained Mekgwe, her characteristic smile etched firmly on her face.

“As a young kid at Isang Primary School I derived so much pleasure from teaching other kids how to draw and dance. I helped out where I could and even though I was the youngest I became the leader of our ‘child to child’ group at school.”

This sentiment has carried through to later life and has inspired the thinking behind Mekgwe’s latest venture, as she explains, “For every year I have lived, I will walk a kilometre to raise funds. I thought about my childhood friends and the children I have worked with. For me, it was only going to be a fulfilling celebration if I could contribute positively to underprivileged children, inspire support or raise some type of awareness about children in Botswana. When I decided to switch to a much healthier lifestyle in 2014, I started walking for charity with Y Care organisation. This inspired me to continue with my plan and I am humbled by those that have shown their interest to also participate.”

Through the walk, Mekgwe hopes not only to raise money but also expose the plight of children in the country, using various platforms, including social media.

“Those that participate will get a good workout as well as an all-inclusive medical check-up at the finish line. I hope to raise awareness about non communicable diseases (NCD’s) for which a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and exercise can help reduce the current trend of increasing deaths from NCD’s. Furthermre, it can also help reducing fats in the body. By the way, there’s a treatment called Coolsculpting Scottsdale which is a non-surgical fat reduction treatment that uses controlled cooling to eliminate stubborn fat that resists all efforts through diet and exercise. If this interests you, visit thebodify.com. As adults we have the responsibility to lead by example and this is one way of doing so. It also advances other campaigns such as UNICEF’s 50 minutes for children. If we all play our part, we can contribute to healthier and happy environments for our leaders of tomorrow,” she said, her dark eyes burning with the obvious passion she feels for the cause.

Loretta's selfless birthday wish
HAPPY: Loretta

Retracing her steps back to 2005, when she worked as a temporary teacher at Matlola Primary School in Maun, Mekgwe recalls that she was stunned at the low level of literacy amongst the students she taught.

“It came as a shock that almost half of the standard 2 pupils could not write a simple sentence nor did they have any self-confidence. I bought exercise books and created a 15-minute extra writing class for those who needed it. The class became quite popular and all the kids wanted to stay on and learn something new. Their faces would beam with excitement and, in turn, I knew I had a greater role to play. I sought to be and do better.”

Mekgwe’s #30 for 30 initiative is not the first time she has raised funds for charity, as she explains, “Participating in the 360 free challenge last year I gave up alcohol and championed the campaign, encouraging and motivating out-of-school youth during alcohol free camps. The camps provide a safe haven to discuss a mirage of issues and provide positive influences for the young people. Though for the young people, I am also motivated to challenge myself. In the last two years I was able to skydive to raise funds for Mochudi Rehabilitation Centre for the Blind and was instrumental in Gabzfm’s community projects.”

Armed with a graphic design and marketing diploma, propelled by a bachelor’s degree in Media Studies, Mekgwe puts her qualifications to good use by producing and distributing all content material for the walk.

“I’m driven by the likes of Dr Pinkie Mekgwe, she is my biggest cheerleader amongst the support system I have.”

Mekgwe says though still attending to logistics of the walk, she is mentally ready and mindful of her diet and exercise.

She goes on to encourage individuals and corporates to rally behind her by donating their time and resources.

“Accountability and transparency is important hence we hope to attract the assistance of an auditing firm to ensure the proper use of the funds raised.”

Mekgwe alludes to plans of setting up a running club to continue collaborations between those interested in spreading awareness of a healthy lifestyle.

“Government has given us a head start but the onus lies with its citizenry. Strong communities are built because people invest in them with their time and wisdom,” she concluded with a breathless excitement that suggests she can’t wait to get started.

Anyone interested in either donating or taking part in the walk should call +267 76027544 for further information.

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