13 Oct, 2016

Learning on The Road


The 720km Cycalive initiative from Joburg to Durban bring learners from different backgrounds together to promote the Ubuntu spirit of the ‘Rainbow Nation,’ through not only cycling, but also outreach projects. – BY KYLE DEELEY

The Cycalive initiative was started in 1998 by a group of grade 11 learners from the Torah Academy, along with their principal at the time, Rabbi Dovid Hazdan, to raise funds for their Matric Farewell, but this motivated group of kids wanted to do more than just raise funds, they wanted to do something much bigger. Therefore, it was decided to include Moletsane High as well as Pace Commercial Secondary School, both underprivileged schools in Soweto, in order to give back to the community in the form of outreach.

“The biggest success of Cycalive is the camaraderie and friendship,” says Betzalel Chaikin, a learner from Torah Academy and a participant in Cycalive 2016. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, how you were brought up or what your skin colour is, and the initiative allows learners to explore and understand different upbringings.”

The Cycalive group for the 2016 ride from Joburg to Durban consisted of 27 learners and 10 staff members, with the group of learners from the three schools joined by learners from two schools in Beit Shemesh, Israel. These learners were brought to South Africa by Partnership2Gether (P2G) and the focus for the week-long trip was not just on the cycling, but also the fact that there is a start and end to every journey, and through teamwork, anything can be achieved!

After meeting well-known South African politician and businessman Tokyo Sexwale, the team received a send-off from a marching band as they were led out of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory by Harley Davidson motorcycles. Having departed as a group, the riders were then split into groups of six that would cycle 10km to 15km at a time before changing shifts and allowing the next group to ride. Life was made easy thanks to Avis and Spartan, who donated trucks to transport goods such as bikes and bags, as well as smaller vehicles to transport the learners, making changing shifts a quick and easy process.

During the trip, the learners slept on the floor of a school hall, as well as at a youth hostel and a hall at a polo club. “This adds to the spirit of the event,” says Betzalel. “The fact that schools and other institutes open their doors for us is one thing, and sleeping together in a hall is all part of the journey, and brings us closer.” Along the way, the Cycalive learners also made a stop at the Ethembeni School for the Handicapped near Inchanga, between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, where they dropped off stationary packs as well as packs of sweets, putting a smile on the faces of those in need.

“The visit to Ethembeni showed that the trip was not only about us, but also those who are less fortunate,” says Betzalel. “Before this trip, I could not ride a bicycle at all. It wasn’t until three months before Cycalive that I first sat on a bicycle, and now I can say that I successfully made it! Everyone had their own goal and at the end of the trip those goals were reached.”

The trip not only saw the learners riding the distance, they also planned, prepped and packed all the food, clothing, stationary and sweet packs before the trip began, and with no professional support on the route other than a medic, they handled anything that needed attention themselves, including repairs. From punctures to chains and other bike parts, the students fixed the bikes themselves and this also helped them bond. “Time spent fixing the bikes was really fast due to the fact that everyone came together to help one another,” says Betzalel.

Evening bonding sessions also contributed to the spirit in the group, allowing learners to teach one another a little bit about their respective cultures and religions. Motivational videos were another highlight of the evenings and taught the students to never give up, to smile, be happy and never stop. After all, riding 720km is a daunting task, especially when you are new to the sport! At the end of the day, Betzalel says the Cycalive initiative teaches one that no matter how big a task you are faced with; it is always easier if tackled as a group. “It can be seen as cycling up a hill. The task at hand may be tough, but the view that awaits you at the top makes the struggle worthwhile. This initiative grows each year and creates vivid memories that will live in us forever.”

Kyle Deeley

Kyle Deeley

Editorial Assistant |