Zambia's Cyrus Phiri Runs For Their Lives In NZ
Cyrus Phiri in a nutshell
AIDS Awareness: Cyrus unearthed his gift for long distance running while attending boarding school. Unable to pay the bus fare to school one-year he ran the distance instead, covering 50km on foot. He arrived with blistered feet but in time for lessons.
In 1989, after losing many of his close relatives and friends to Aids, Cyrus decided to use his running as a means of promoting Aids awareness. He ran from Livingstone, to Lusaka via Kitwe, a total distance of 1,500km. He arrived in Lusaka on December 1 – World Aids Day. The run served as a curtain raiser to an anti-Aids campaign in Zambia. Cyrus completed the run in ten days – averaging 150km per day. Afterwards WHO sponsored Cyrus to travel all over Zambia educating young people about the disease.
Cyrus studied theology at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Lusaka. Following graduation he returned to secondary teaching and at the same time took up preaching duties in Baptist churches. He is currently a part-time pastor at Fairview Baptist Church in Lusaka. In 1994 Cyrus joined World Vision Zambia, working in various departments.
In 1992 Cyrus’ younger sister Phales became bedridden with Aids. Cyrus nursed her until her death in 1996. He became distraught and angry at her loss and embarked on a second marathon Aids run – Lusaka-Kitwe-Lusaka – a distance of 800km, which he completed in five days. This time the run was sponsored by World Vision Zambia and was used to raise money for an Aids awareness project targeting high-risk truck drivers and commercial sex workers.
To date Cyrus has lost five of his brothers and sisters to Aids and one of his remaining sisters is HIV positive. In addition to nursing his siblings he has been responsible for nursing several other relatives suffering from the disease. Currently he and his wife support 10 Aids orphans, children of his dead relatives.
Cyrus is currently project counselor for a World Vision Zambia project called Sanduka - meaning “change”. The project rehabilitates commercial sex workers through counselling and gives them opportunities for further education and skills training. The project works to end the stigma attached to these girls and reintegrate them into mainstream life.
Cyrus is delighted to be able to be
involved in Run for their Lives and sees in the
participating students a kindred spirit. He says it is
important to take an early step so Aids does not reach the
devastating proportions here that it has in Africa.