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There are so many positive people around us working hard to make the country a better place, even if it’s just in a small way. It’s often easy to miss these everyday heroes who work in communities and work to raise funds for causes because of all the other negative forces we are confronted with daily.

But I was reminded of the power of positivity the other day when I interviewed one of Team South Africa’s biggest supporters, David Grier. Grier, who is an extreme explorer and trustee and ambassador for the ‘Cipla Miles for Smiles Foundation’, recently took runners up Platteklip Gorge to mark World Smile Day on 5 October, and to raise funds for Operation Smile, that performs corrective surgery on children born with cleft lips and palates.

24 hours prior to the event he was mugged on the mountain in the Newlands Ravine area. He was part of a group of hikers who were tied up, stripped of all their belongings, and was even stabbed three times. The knife must have been blunt, because three hours later he was sitting in the Cipla Foundation offices waiting for my call.

And he didn’t dwell on the incident too long, instead focusing the interview on his mission to raise as much funds as possible for Operation Smile.

“I’ve been to hell and back in this country and I’ve put up my hand as a South African and said, I’m not going to moan or whinge about anything. I’m actually going to make a difference, no matter what happens, I’m going to stay positive. I meet such cool people every day, and we’ll get there, we must just remain positive.”

His determination has led him on many adventures, all with the ultimate aim to put smiles on children’s faces. Grier recently became the first person to run The Great Wall of China in both directions. He’s run the entire coastline of South Africa – 3300 km in 80 days. He’s paddled from Africa to Madagascar in 12 days, run the Island of Madagascar in 67 days, and run the entire length of India – over 4000 km – in 93 days.

Through the Miles for Smiles Foundation, together with Operation Smile South Africa, they have raised millions, changing the lives of over 1000 children. Grier’s project has reached beyond our borders and the project has been involved in operations in Madagascar and Swaziland, while they are looking at Mozambique, Namibia and the DRC.

With a simple operation of some 45 minutes, a child’s life can be changed forever.

“I’ve had the privilege of going into theatre with some of the surgical missions, and just to sit there and to meet a kid, see them go through the operation and see them afterwards…Once you’ve done that, you can never stop doing it. It is so inspiring and life changing to see what a little effort can achieve.”

Grier’s humility also stands out, what he’s done is no “little effort”. There are many such stories of South Africans doing amazing things, too many to mention. While no-one is looking, while the press has their attention on the big issues of the day, these heroes are staying positive and helping others.

Do your bit by supporting Miles for Smiles – simply visit to make a donation.


Liesl (1)

Liesl Smit – Senior Reporter and Anchor, Smile 90.4FM News