The long walk to awareness

Words: Ri Vermooten | Photos: HiM Facebook & BlueCheri Photography

Inspiring People


She walks under the vast bowl of South African skies. Day after day, Charlotte makes her resolute way through the slow-changing landscape. Against a backdrop of now lush vineyards, then seemingly endless arid Karoo, grassy plains, farmlands, mines, densely populated areas or spectacular passes, the small figure wearing the SA flag makes her steady progress through all nine provinces, treading with alacrity, scanning the passing vistas. At times, she stops and bends to photograph a small succulent, a piece of quartz, a gecko. At night, her bed is made wherever she chances to arrive after the 35 km to 50 km walk – be it in a one-man tent next to the road under the stars, on a veranda in an industrial area, in a luxurious guesthouse or hotel, behind a silo, or even in a courtroom. The opportunity of enjoying a shower or bath depends on the location. So does the meal to be had – cooked by her over an open fire or provided and shared with those kind hearts encountered. Breakfast similarly would be self-provided or sponsored. Then Charlotte would pack up and continue along the road from where she left off. After some time, she is followed by her inconspicuous support vehicle, manned by CPO Noel Kitching, who had successfully responded to a Gumtree advert for a driver.



In 27 larger towns or cities, Charlotte sets up a stall in a public space and for a day or more focuses on creating awareness and promoting her causes. Upon completing each ‘leg’, she would publish on Facebook an account of impressions and encounters together with a visual record capturing scenes and moments from the journey.


Thus, Charlotte Steyn (34) has been advancing for four months along the symbolically warped, heart-shaped trail of 5,327 km through the country she loves. Her departure on 16 March 2013 at Big Bay, in Cape Town, happened without fanfare. The walk has so far taken her through the Western Cape, Northern Cape, Northwest, Free State, Gauteng and Limpopo. She reached the halfway mark on Saturday, 6 July just outside of Tzaneen and has since entered province seven, Mpumalanga. Why would a young woman elect to walk 5,327 km through South Africa?


This is her story:

“After resigning from the corporate world of national training and development manager, and completing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage to clear my head, I had to deliberate about the future. Could ‘significance beyond success’ be achieved? The image outline of South Africa came to me with the outline of a heart within. Intrigued, I downloaded an image of South Africa and superimposed the shape of a heart. The heart, symbolising the emotional and moral core of the human being, had trouble fitting in, fitting only when warped, and that is when it all started to make sense, for South Africa's heart is warped and requires healing. So I did some research, conceptualising and sharing the idea with select people. Although all feedback was positive, I was cautioned about the time it would take to put such a project together. This is when I applied my other philosophy: "The word 'No' does not exist. Change your approach until you get to the 'Yes'." I think people want to put a face to this; it is how we are. Perhaps I can say that my role is not important except as 'trigger', putting mouth and feet where the heart is. Be as it may, here is how one can strive to make the world less sad.”


The dream

Charlotte has a dream. Her dream is that one day this nation will rise and live up to the true meaning of its anthem - that we be raised, united, freed, saved, and blessed. For that to happen, everyone needs to make a contribution towards achieving the potential of our wonderful place on planet earth – and do it for the sheer joy of giving, if not for Madiba’s legacy or for Project Hearts-in-Motion.


Charlotte sees her role as ‘trigger’ to first raise awareness that would bring about change in the immediate social environment. She wishes for the Hearts-in-Motion Trail Project to inspire South Africans to take the responsibility and contribute to society – to actively seek opportunities across all passages of life (as reflected in the causes) that are sustainable and can benefit individuals, as well as the country. It follows that one can contribute by donating to these charities that do those things on our behalf.


Only then can this road less travelled become the road more travelled – only then will people across all groups and communities in South Africa feel that they can safely replicate the walk in their own province and area to benefit themselves and similar deserving charities.


The ultimate goal of this walk is that the distorted heart of our country and people be healed in moments of giving, of participating, of sharing in this great adventure – magical life itself.


The motivation

On her website, Charlotte motivates her approach as follows: “If you read this, you are part of life, and you find yourself somewhere along the life cycle continuum. This we all have in common. It is the so-called ‘human condition’. From cradle to grave, we pass various milestones: infancy, childhood, teenager, etc. In a wonderful world, we cohabit with animals and plants, a world that may cause wonderment and joy, but may also bring untold hardship and pain. We are all journeying towards the great unknown of tomorrow and the day after and ...”


The recipients

Nine charities were selected for this campaign. They were chosen to reflect a category that we will all encounter at some stage of our life journey. These nine charities, on a daily basis, move hearts and make a difference to individuals, families, groups, and communities.


• Children - Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust
• Education - Bokamoso
• Health - The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa
• HIV/Aids - Tshepang
• Disabilities - Leonard Cheshire Disabilities
• Elderly - SAOPF
• Human rights - Black Sash
• Animals - Adopt-a-Pet
• Environmental - Food & Trees for Africa


Take action

The idea for the project is for individuals, corporates, organisations, schools, churches, businesses, and groups in South Africa to:


• DARE to be sufficiently courageous to GIVE! Give of yourself, of your time, of your money. DARE others to walk with Charlotte on her way and donate to a charity in return; donate to one of the nine charities and DARE others to equal or UP the donation. If you are an artist, donate a painting to be auctioned online on behalf of the charity of your choice and DARE fellow artists to do the same. Rise and heal the heart of our country! (Africa is not for sissies) And in doing so, have FUN, like she is having! Be creative, original, and think beyond stale realities.


• DONATE something to one charity. It is possible through the HiM website. Go to the DONATE page on the Hearts-in-Motion website and submit a donation as per the guidance provided.


• PLEDGE SUPPORT for the project, which is FREE, and help motivate this brave young woman to keep the faith that her journey is indeed for the good of everyone.


• WALK WITH either by participating through joining the walk at some stage, wherever they are, in whatever province they live in, be it in school groups, clubs, companies, organisations or communities.



Charlotte’s exact location can be tracked via the Extreme Tracker link on her website clicking the ROUTE tab:
To get involved visit
To donate, visit - when donating, remember to keep to the nine causes or charities elected.
To pledge your support, visit
To join the walk, visit


A helping hand

GiveAll2Charity is Charlotte’s main sponsor. Giveall is 'going where giving should'. They are developing and sourcing the latest revenue-generating solutions and cost-cutting tools and systems and customising them so that they can be utilised by every single Non-Profit Organisation in the UK and South Africa, regardless of size or charitable purpose. Giveall2charity ensures that charities have better ways to raise more money and ensure that more of a donor’s money goes where it is meant to go. Donors have the right to expect their donation reaches its destination without commission or unnecessary fees being taken from it by third parties. The Non-Profit sector has to do more with less, so Giveall believes it is no longer acceptable for 2%, 5% or even 30% or more to be taken from money meant for others by way of commission and/or fees.