Durban - Martin Dreyer, the founder of the Computershare Change a Life Academy, saw his hard work rewarded when he received the Foundation Award at the World Paddle Awards in Barcelona, Spain.
Known as “the Dusi Duke”, the seven-time Dusi champion paid tribute to his mentor, the late, great Graeme Pope-Ellis, by wearing a tuxedo that had belonged to “the Dusi King” to the event.
Dreyer’s Change a Life Academy began in 2008 after he and Thulani “Michael” Mbanjwa won the Dusi, making Mbanjwa the first black winner of the famous marathon.
Mbanjwa told The Witness on Tuesday: “In 2008, when we were training and guys were running barefoot, trying to keep up with us, we got a shoe sponsorship. After our win, Martin came back and decided that he really wanted to help those guys. Look at how many guys are fully professional now, like Sbonelo Khwela. Now he has won the Dusi and the Non-Stop Dusi and several other races. He and his family are well covered in life.”
Khwela said: “Martin is like a father to me. He means everything to me. If Martin wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be where I am today, because he has shown me that I can do it. No one had done that before Martin came in 2008.”
Dreyer said at the Awards: “It is a great honour to receive this award, especially on a global stage. It gives me reassurance that what I’m doing is good. It reiterates my drive to continue and it is good to know that we at the Computershare Change a Life Academy are going in the right direction.
“Change a Life is a non-profit organisation and this exposure on an international level can only be beneficial to my academy and help create opportunities for those who are less privileged.”
Mbanjwa explained that Dreyer’s influence extended beyond paddling and had assisted many families in the valley. “There are so many guys from the Change a Life Academy that Martin has looked after,” he said, “providing food and food parcels for them and their families, which is a big thing.
“In the valley, many people don’t work and rely on grant money from the government. It’s a big thing to receive those food parcels. All the parents really appreciate what Martin does for the guys. Winning this award, he really deserves it.”
Focusing on paddling, Khwela weighed in: “The big difference is that people now understand the sport. Now they support it. If there is a race, they make sure they come out and support their heroes as they come past.”
Dreyer is the second South African to win a World Paddle Award, following in the footsteps of Hank McGregor, who was crowned Sportsman of the Year in the inaugural World Paddle Awards, held last year in Augsburg, Germany.