Barefoot Torchbearer takes the Olympic Flame to Kenya

An Olympic Torchbearer from Consett who ran his leg barefoot has donated his torch to a sports club 8,000 kilometres away in Kenya.

(John made the headlines at the start of Look North: Cumbria and North East and the full story is at the end, 22 minutes in. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01k7ckl/Look_North_(North_East_and_Cumbria)_26_06_2012/)

Council worker John McBride, 48, ran barefoot in the Olympic Torch Relay at Barnard Castle on Wednesday, June 20. On Friday, June 22, he left for Kenya, to present his torch to members of the St John’s Sports Society, in the Korogocho slum in Nairobi, who inspired him to run barefoot.

John presented the torch at Mass at St John’s on Sunday, June 24, to a congregation approaching 1000 people.

John – who was nominated to carry the torch by the Catholic aid agency CAFOD – said: “When the Torches started selling on e-bay for tens of thousands of pounds, people were telling me all my troubles are over. But there was never any chance I’d sell mine. I wanted to do something which captured the Olympic spirit, and I know in that gym in Korogocho, the Torch will act as a symbol of hope.

“It will stand there as a reminder to all those young people that their dream of competing in the Olympics for Kenya is not a distant fairy-tale, but something they can reach out and touch with their own hands.

“I run barefoot for CAFOD because, when I went to Korogocho two years ago to see their work in action, I saw so many children playing in the streets without shoes, and that small act of removing my trainers reminds me of the reason I’m running. I’ll be wearing the official tracksuit when I run my leg of the relay, but my bare feet will show who I’m doing it for.”

(Radio interviews with John:

BBC Radio Newcastle at around 16:37 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/p00tpxq7/

BBC Radio Tees at around 16:50 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/p00th9fx/)

Father John Weebotsa, who runs the St John’s Sports Society, said: “Life is hard for young people in Korogocho. Almost 200,000 people live here, packed into less than a square mile of space. There is very little here for young people, and even for the ones who make it through secondary school, unemployment is high, and many fall into drugs, crime and violence.

“The Society is one of the few places where young people in Korogocho can escape their everyday lives. The boys and girls can play football, basketball, netball, boxing and karate. They have fun, but they also learn confidence, team work and discipline.

“And in a community which has been divided in the past by ethnic rivalry and violence, my dream is that the Society acts as a haven of peace. We can show that sport can create change in Korogocho, that the slum reality is not the real one, that these young people can have a better life, and we can build it together.

“Most of the young people at the Society dream of representing Kenya at the Olympics. They want to be champions for their country, and show that young people from Korogocho can do something special.

“The Torch John is giving to us will stand in pride of place in the Society; it will inspire the dreams of our young people, and make them believe that their dreams can be realised. That is what the Olympics really means.”

Each year John runs the Great North Run to raise money for CAFOD, completing the final mile barefoot as an act of solidarity with young people in Nairobi’s Korogocho Slum who cannot afford shoes. John has run the Great North Run for CAFOD for the last 15 years, and began running the last mile barefoot four years ago. He visited Kenya and the St John’s Sports Society in Korogocho with CAFOD for the first time in 2010.

John was nominated by CAFOD to take part in the Torch Relay in recognition of his fundraising efforts and of the talks he gives in local schools and parishes about CAFOD’s work in Kenya. You can watch John talking about why he is involved with CAFOD here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTUuJuaEsIc

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