09 Jan, 2015

Making a Difference

A sea of silver and yellow flashes in the sun.

As we get closer, the silver reveals itself to be spokes, rims and handle bars reflecting Africa’s strong sunlight.

A sea of yellow frames is the next thing our eyes pick up, as the bus nears a school in Third World Orange Farm.

And, as anyone who has ever attended a rural African function will tell you, a VIP marquee beckons the bus nearer with its inviting shade and plastic “function” chairs as sure as there are wondering goats on the property too!

The obligatory sound system, complete with ‘Kasie-cred deejay, ensures that a rhythmic African beat entertains all while the VIPs take their seats.

On the left, and in a line that could only indicate a discipline-stressed education facility, are the 250 beaming faces of the children scheduled to receive their Qhubeka Buffalo Bicycles.

On the right sits another sea of faces belonging to an army of family members, friends and onlookers. For reasons only known to those in charge of protocol, only the donors, officials and others are accorded the privilege of sitting in the shade of the marquee.

In this quad of humanity, a square devoid of all plant life, is the absolute centre of attraction and, spurred on by the deejay, a group of enthusiastic dancers gyrate to the sounds booming from the small fortune’s worth of sound equipment.

As convention dictates, the speeches begin. Some long, others short but all polite and thankful to Qhubeka, World Vision and the donors for empowering 250 more of the area’s school pupil population with a chance to make a difference in their lives.

The process of actually handing out the bicycles begins. Donors are invited to actually present the bicycles to the pupils, who have “earned” their new transport by planting trees, picking up litter and attending school.

Some children “whoop” with delight when they realise the bicycle in front of them is theirs. Others have a rather pained expression and yet others are quiet as dormice.

After their new yellow helmets are placed on their heads and strapped on, they are given their bikes and one of two things happen. They either smile, give thanks and push their new steeds away or they leap onto their bikes and charge off into the fields, crowing with achievement as they go.

It’s not long before a rudimentary race track is created on the school grounds, abuzz with the screams of delight and the frantic pedalling of delighted school pupils astride their new possessions.

After all 250 bicycles are handed over, donors and VIPs make their way back to the air-conditioned comfort of the bus and cold water bottles ready to quench dusty-dry throats.

We look back at the grounds. Most of the yellow and silver steeds have scattered into the surrounding area. As the bus drones back towards the First World part of Johannesburg, we look out for other Qhubeka Buffalo Bikes and see a few of them, their owners astride them still with that glint of achievement in their eyes.

After that day, 250 more excited African children have joined a community of more than 50 000 who put up their hands and worked to receive their Qhubeka Buffalo Bikes.

“I see trees that are green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and for you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.”

Recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1967.
Raymond Travers

Raymond Travers

Modern Cyclist Editor |