Support fund-raiser for guide dogs

South African Guide- Dogs Association fund-raising manager Lindsey Concer with Cornelia Liebenberg and her guide-dog, Athena.

A woman will be pushing her body and mind to the limit to raise money for the Claremont branch of the South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind.

Visually impaired Cornelia Liebenberg, 44, will compete in the gruelling Ironman triathlon in East London next month to raise the R100 000 needed to raise and train a single guide-dog.

“I have 0.5% vision in each eye,” said Ms Liebenberg. “I have tunnel vision, I can see movement in the light, though when it becomes dark, it becomes totally black, and I can’t see anything. I can’t see steps, whether going up or down.”

Her vision deteriorated from the age of 9. She finished her schooling at the Pioneer School for the blind in Worcester and now works in an engineering firm’s client relationship department.

She adopted her first guide-dog, Gin, from the Johannesburg branch of the guide-dog association, and he was with her for 10 years before his retirement.

Last June, she adopted Athena from the association’s Claremont branch.

“The main reason why I want to raise funds is to help someone have a guide-dog that can assist them, because the dog gives me independence. I can really go anywhere without feeling afraid that I may walk into something,” she said.

Cheryl Robertson, the association’s Cape Town branch manager, said each trainer worked with four to six dogs. It took four to five months to train them to be a guide-, service- or autism-support dog.

“When the dogs are able to work in the desired manner they are matched to a client who has been interviewed by an instructor,” she said.

Before Ms Liebenberg adopted Athena, she had to be at the Claremont branch 24/7 for two weeks to train with the guide-dog and instructor, and the once she took her guide-dog home, the instructor went home with them to help the guide-dog adapt to the new environment.

Ms Liebenberg enjoys running and gyming, and she did her first triathlon in Clanwilliam in 2016. She has done 12 since then as well as a half Ironman triathlon in Durban last year.

The full Ironman triathlon she will tackle in East London includes a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycle and a 42km run.

She has been training with her guide, Cornal Botha, for the past six months. Mr Botha will be attached to Ms Liebenberg by an elastic band to the leg for the swimming and they will be on a tandem bike for the cycling. For the running,

Mr Botha will guide Ms Liebenberg by hand.

Mr Botha, who has completed four Ironman triathlons himself as a solo athlete, said it was an honour and a privilege to help Ms Liebenberg.

To support Ms Liebenberg’s fund-raising efforts visit her Givengain page at https://www.givengain.com/ap/cornelia-liebenberg-raising-funds-for-south-african-guide-dogs-association-for-the-blind/. Alternatively, email Lindsey Concer at LindseyC@guidedog.org.za or call 021 674 7395.