There is a saying “Life begins at 40” and Liesl Schoonraad has proven this to be true by starting a journey against abuse on her 40th birthday when she completed the Robben Island to Big Bay swim. She discovered a physical strength she never realised she had and combined her inner strength and physical strength to prove that becoming a survivor is a choice. A tough one, but possible.
People might have hurt me but they have not broken me. The pain has taught me that I am strong enough to do the impossible. Liesl became the first woman in South Africa to pull a 10 ton truck with only a body harness, the first woman in the world to pull a Dakota Aircraft and took part in South Africa's first strongest woman competition. In 2014 she lifted a total of 87 tons in 30 min with her calf muscles after she tore her Achilles tendon and was told she cannot do strength sport again.
This woman does not believe in cannot. She has overcome abuse and was also a victim of bullying while at school. This gave her the passion of speaking out against abuse especially at schools where many kids are victims of all sorts of abuse. Liesl has since 2012 visited schools across South Africa and she has been invited back to many schools wanting her to address the learners again after incredible feedback from both victims and abusers.
We have a choice as a victim of abuse. We either stay a victim, become an abuser ourselves or do the right thing and become a survivor Liesl believes. It takes strength but just as I never realised the strength I have, so does many victims who simply need some encouragement to get up out of their situation and change their future to become who they are meant to be.
Liesl started Strong 4 Life which encourages people to stand strong, especially against abuse. She believes the youth should be educated regarding abuse so that ignorance can never be an excuse.
Now at the age of forty-five she is again back in training to prove once again, we are stronger than we think, and will be doing events for the Reeva Steenkamp Foundation as Ambassador. When she is not at a school speaking against abuse or training for her next event, she is an Architectural Consultant, trauma counsellor, currently studying for her counselling degree and a mother of two children.
Reeva Steenkamp was an activist against abuse and run an anti-bullying campaign in 2012 in schools, the same year I started speaking at schools. I believe Reeva's voice is now continuing to echo throughout schools in South Africa. She has not been silenced.
I am honoured and excited to be an Ambassador to this incredible Foundation. May women and children receive hope, love and the joy of God through this Foundation. May lives be saved, restored and may those beautiful souls flourish and live the purpose they were meant to live on this earth.
To Barry and June, you are strongest people I have ever met. Thank you for giving birth to Reeva's legacy on this day, 19 August 2016, thirty three years after you gave birth to that beautiful soul. May you find healing and peace in time to come through this foundation, Reeva’s Voice.