15 November 2013 was a day of celebration in Orange Farm, Johannesburg, as community members gathered for the handover of 120 Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycles that were distributed to schoolchildren who are part of the Qhubeka Bicycle Education Empowerment Programme (BEEP). Fifty-eight of these sturdy steel-framed bicycles were provided by RCS Sport, organisers of the famed Giro d’Italia cycling race. RCS Sport raised the funds through a pre-race gala dinner held at the Milano Sanremo (MSR) cycling classic in Italy earlier this year, choosing Qhubeka as the beneficiary.
The MSR race is organised by RCS Sport and is the longest cycling classic in the world and the biggest one-day race in Italy. It also turned out to be one of the highlights of the 2013 cycling season for Team MTN-Qhubeka powered by Samsung, the team that races to build exposure for Qhubeka’s rural initiatives and rides to inspire potential new athletes within the community of Qhubeka bicycle recipients. As Africa’s first ever UCI registered Professional Continental cycling team, Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung were the new kids on the block at the MSR and shocked the world as Gerald Ciolek edged out race favourite Peter Sagan in terrible weather conditions to claim the win.
“The Milano Sanremo race is etched in my mind as a defining moment in Africa’s cycling journey,” says Qhubeka director Anthony Fitzhenry. “It was a day of proving to the world that Africa has the cycling talent to compete at the highest levels of the sport. At Qhubeka our focus is on mobilising people with bicycles because we believe that bicycles can change people’s lives, whether it’s by helping them to access economic opportunity, get to school safely and more quickly, or develop a passion for the sport of cycling. We are thankful to RCS Sport for their support and for the enormous contribution they are making through the handover of these 120 bicycles. By choosing Qhubeka as the beneficiary of the MSR fundraising gala dinner, RSC Sport has helped to put African cycling in the spotlight and highlighted the need to get more people on bicycles.”
Marco Gobbi, RCS Sport Cycling Marketing manager comments, “We are honoured we have been offered the opportunity, thanks to the MTN-Qhubeka team, to be part of this extraordinary initiative and I think this is linked to the magic of sport. Cycling is born in our streets – from kids who ride for fun or cycle for need, it’s fantastic to be able to tangibly contribute to help those kids in South Africa. Donating a bicycle to a child in this country may mean granting him or her a chance to reach school and to help the family by completing travel distances otherwise impossible to cover. This is the reason why we decided to dedicate our gala dinner of Milan-Sanremo to the MTN-Qhubeka project last spring in Milan.
“We are not new to these initiatives for students in the cycling space. Every year in Italy, through our Biciscuola (Bike School) project, we promote the bicycle as an instrument of emancipation, as an ecological and sustainable way of transport that is healthy and convenient for over 100,000 students in primary schools. 4000 schools every year discover the pleasure of using a bicycle as a friend for life and as way to adventure, even before discovering it as a sport.”.
“The smile of these kids, together with Ciolek celebrating on the finish line of the most epic Milan-Sanremo in recent history will remain as one the highest and most emotional moments of our past season, testifying how cycling can still create stories which look like modern fairy tales,” continues Gobbi.
Through BEEP, Qhubeka hopes to change the lives of South African schoolchildren. Of the 16 million school-going children in the country, 12 million walk to school and 500 000 of these walk more than two hours each way, spending four hours per day getting to and from school. Currently only 40% of South African students achieve a qualification higher than grade 9.
Children who have received Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycles through BEEP report that they now feel safer when travelling to school than when they had to walk. Their commute time is reduced by up to 75%, their marks improve by an average of 23% and attendance rates increase exponentially too.
BEEP is a collaboration between Qhubeka and its implementation partner, World Vision South Africa (WVSA). The initiative was first launched in Zambia in 2009 by World Bicycle Relief and World Vision Zambia, and due to its success is now being rolled out in South Africa by Qhubeka, World Bicycle Relief’s programme in South Africa.
“Qhubeka is delighted to be leveraging off World Bicycle Relief’s existing partnership with World Vision,” says Fitzhenry. “We have confidence and a high regard for World Vision’s capability to implement the programme with quality and integrity. Every bicycle handover is a special event for us. To see the excitement of the whole community is fantastic.”
To find out more about Qhubeka’s initiatives, visit www.qhubeka.org.