Johan Travis and his sheep dog, Kaira

ashley bengell
Ashley Bengell
September 1, 2015
September 1, 2015

Johan Travis and his sheep dog, Kaira

antoinette travis

Johan’s story

During the week Johan Travis (55) works as a yard manager for a formwork and scaffolding company. On weekends he takes to the streets of towns in the Lowveld: Graskop, Sabie, White River, Nelspruit, Barberton, Pilgrims Rest … Johan and his sheep dog Kaira walk the streets and answer questions about multiple sclerosis. Antoinette, his partner, follows close behind in a bakkie and together they spread the news about the illness she has been living with for 32 years.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 1.35.48 PMJohan and his dog have walked in excess of 54 km and it’s his goal to walk his MS route through every town in the Lowveld at least twice.  All in a bid to get their message through to the broader community, to have “… more people and doctors become knowledgeable about MS”. As they move along, information is offered to those living with MS, their family and loved ones.

Of his sheep dog he says “Kaira and I have a very special bond, she is lovable and steals the show, which makes her the perfect ambassador for our project!”

When Johan comes home after a long, hard day at work, Antoinette is always there to meet him with a warm smile, in spite of her own challenges. It was her attitude that inspired him to inform others about her illness.  The love between the couple is endearing and with the help of Kaira, their sheep dog, they are fulfilling their desire to bring MS information to the Lowveld.

Antoinette’s story

Do not molly coddle this woman, allow her to be her own person!

Neurologist Vivian Fritz delivered this stern instruction to the partner of Antoinette Travis (25) when she was diagnosed with MS in 1982.

It must have been a nightmare for the young Antoinette as during this time the illness was not well known in South Africa and no treatments had yet been developed.

And to add to her discomfort the couple moved to Ellisras, a coal mining town in Limpopo known for its extreme heat of 38°C in summer. Being in the early stages of MS, Antoinette was thankful for air-conditioned homes and offices.

Antoinette was born on The Isle of Mann which she left as a teenager to settle in South Africa. A while ago she thought of returning to her place of birth, but after some discussions with PwMS living there, she is of the opinion that the MS community here is not at a disadvantage.

“I prefer to use natural cures”, says Antoinette after experiencing bad reactions to cortisone.  Having done a good amount of research she decided to use cannabis oil and for a number of years she has found it to be beneficial for treatment of her symptoms. According to Antoinette her mobility improved to such an extent that people noticed she wasn’t using her wheelchair so often anymore.

Antoinette’s role in “On a Mission” is to advocate empathy, not sympathy and to talk to as many people as possible about MS. “I want them to get an understanding about MS” and she plans to fundraise for the MSSA in the near future. “My biggest dream for the M.S. community is that we could get together more often, here in the Lowveld people with MS tend to hide away or are in denial. It is really sad as we should come together and maybe we can help each other.

“We are in the same boat, so let’s paddle upstream together!”

The couple’s website can be viewed on

Written by Madelein du Toit