Hope Beyond Cancer Evening 2013: Meet Co-Host Sharon Orapeleng

The day has come! It’s Friday 11 October 2013 and the five patients the ECCT is supporting and patients connected to the Cancer Association of Botswana will be supported tonight in an inspirational and hope-filled evening to be held at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in Melbourne, Australia. You may have read our blog on the details of the evening here and for the past two weeks, we have been posting exciting updates about the night, including people who are deeply involved in the night.

We have truly saved the best for last as we introduce you to the Co-Host for this insirational night – Sharon Orapeleng.  She is an admirable woman who not only has a big heart, but has built an impressive career in the disability sector, mental health and in community development, working in both Government and non Government roles. She is the President of the Queensland African Communities Council – a peak organisation representing the interest of African community organisations and individuals in Queensland which recently won the 2013 Queensland Multicultural Award- under the not-for-profit community organisation (greater Brisbane) category. Sharon has also been recognised for her work with the the Community Leader of the Year Award 2013 by Celebrate African Australians Inc.

Other recognitions for her work have been a feature in the Tribute Gallery – “Everyday women, extraordinary lives” – during the Queensland Government Office of Women’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. In 2012, she was among African Australians recognised in Sydney during the celebrations of  the “100 Most Influential African Australians”.

Sharon has been a member of different committees including the Lord Mayor’s Multicultural Advisory Committee and currently sits in the Ministerial Cultural Diversity Roundtable, an advisory committee for the Queensland Government on multicultural issues. She has also been appointed as one of the 2013 Multicultural Community Ambassador for the Australian Football League (AFL).

To sum herself up, Sharon humbly puts it as, “I am a Motswana woman, a mother , a life partner, a community leader and a business woman.”

Co-host Sharon Orapeleng is supporting the Cancer Association of Botswana through this event. Pic: Cancer Association of Botswana’s Stiletto Walk in support of breast cancer awareness.

Sharon will be co-hosting the Hope for Cancer Fundraising Evening with the Founder of the ECCT, Teurai Chanakira. The value of social media can never be underestimated because these two women met by connecting on Facebook. They discussed their mutual passion in regards to making a difference in the lives of cancer sufferers. Furthermore, both women have personal connections to cancer. Teurai’s mother, the late Elizabeth Chanakira (who the Trust is named after) battled cancer for seven years until December 2010, when she lost her fight. Sharon’s mother, Betty (Elizabeth Chanakira was always known as ‘Betty’ too) is currently battling breast cancer.

A few months after their connection on social media, they met in person at the Celebrate African Australians Awards Night 2013, where they were both being awarded for their work. The rest is history as some would say….they decided to partner and host an inspirational night to support cancer sufferers in Africa. The Hope Beyond Cancer Evening was birthed.

We sat down with Sharon to find out more about this woman with a heart for others.

You are co-hosting the Hope for Cancer Fundraising Evening with ECCT Founder Teurai Chanakira. Thank you for your support! You are also fundraising to support the Cancer Association of Botswana through this event. What compels you to support the Association?

The Cancer Association of Botswana is a not- for profit organisation dedicated to reducing the impact of cancer by increasing awareness and education to promote healthy lifestyles and early detection of cancer, facilitating medical care and providing counselling and support to those affected. This is something that resonates well with me and I am delighted to be able to support them.

 What excites you most about the upcoming Hope for Cancer Evening happening tonight? What should we look forward to?

I look forward to an evening full of hope and inspiration, an evening full of celebration of strength through adversity, an evening of connectedness and awareness raising.

What do you think the biggest problem marginalized (ie poor) cancer patients face in southern Africa?

We know that more can be done to reduce the impact of cancer on patients, families and communities. Treatment for cancer still remains out of reach for many patients in Africa, the costs associated with that treatment are enormous and create financial burden on individuals and families. Access to proper nutrition to boost the well being of cancer patients is vital, however this is often out of reach for many.

Please tell us about any personal side you have with cancer.

It was in October 2010 when I received the horrible news that no daughter should receive. It was about my mother Betty’s diagnosis of breast cancer. This diagnosis came as a huge blow to my mother who was at that time supporting her sister Mmeisi through her recent diagnosis of breast cancer. My mother is a pillar of strength in our family and to witness and to experience her pain and despair throughout her recovery journey from a breast cancer diagnosis has been both inspirational and heart breaking.

Only in March this year we experienced a terrible loss of my Mmeisi, my mother’s sister. I was there in the last couple of weeks, I held her hand, I experienced her pain, I fought for her but in the end, the battle with cancer was lost. She was a mother of five, with the youngest only five years old. A lot can be said about the public health system that failed her, that failed us, that failed her children.

I am passionate about creating awareness of breast cancer and talking about the importance of early detection and treatment. I already fundraise to contribute to research to end cancer and through this event Hope Beyond Cancer, I am delighted to support Cancer Association of Botswana to continue the amazing work they do in reducing the impact of cancer.

What an inspirational woman…Sharon we thank you and we send prayers to your mother and your family so that you may all continue to be strengthened!!

*Visit the Cancer Association of Botswana’s website by clicking here to learn more about their amazing work.

*There are still tickets available for the Hope Beyond Cancer Evening. Please click here to contact the ECCT Team to buy a ticket online or you can also purchase tickets in cash at the door on the night. See you tonight at 6pm!



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