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Velokhaya Stories

 

Back in 2015, I connected with Velokhaya (www.velokhaya.com) to learn more about their organisation, and see if there was anything I could do to help. I was drawn to their story – one of great hope - inspiring children in marginalised communities to get out of the rat race through sport and education, with strong, positive mentors and role models who have blazed the trail before them.

Initially I sent a few dozen cycling jerseys for their athletes to train in, using a network of pilot friends to get them there safely. Subesequently, in January 2016, I managed to visit the Academy in Khayelitsha, just outside Cape Town in South Africa. I was given a full tour by Sipho, the current CEO, and educated about the history and the facility, which started as a shipping container.

Khayelitsha has been described by some as the biggest slum in the world, with over a million black residents who were removed from the coast to build the city of Cape Town years ago. I was warned by white friends before my visit that my safety was at risk even driving in there. Sipho reassured me that I would be safe, and offered to escort me into the city.

Despite my concerns, I did not feel threatened or unsafe at all during my visit, and apart from the makeshift nature of the homes, what I saw of Khayelitsha was for the most part clean and not deserving of it’s ‘slum’ label.

 

The facility itself is surrounded by high security fencing, with someone guarding the front gates so the children can play, train and learn in an environment where they feel protected and secure. It has come a long way from very modest beginnings as a few old shipping containers, although they remain at the front of the property by the BMX track, functioning as a reminder of how far they have come – and as a great canvas for their inspirational artwork.

 

The new facility is modern and features male and female washrooms, indoor training facilities, a stretching area, lobby, and study area with a bank of computers for the children to use. Outside there is a well maintained full size BMX track, which they intend to certify for competition.

 

As good as all this sounds, there are still some obvious areas where more help is needed. With Velokhaya being such a safe, healthy environment, and physically located between 3 schools, there are many children in attendance after school on any given day, and just not enough bikes to go around. The new facility is very nice, but not 100% complete. They attend multiple competitions throughout the calendar for both BMX and elite road team development on a shoe string budget.

 

This visit strengthened my resolve to help, and since then I have delivered water bottles (OORR Bio bidons), and donated to their BMX program – committing revenue before profit to ensure they get as much as OORR can give.

 

Recently, I was able to remotely interview two of the up and coming BMX athletes to learn more about their journey, dreams and how Velokhaya has helped them.

 

Wanga Moshani

Please tell us a little about yourself, and what you have achieved so far.

“I’m 19 yrs old. Riding BMX since 2008 and have achieved a lot in that time.

In 2010 I reached the semi finals of the BMX World Championships

In 2013 I was the South African BMX age champion.

This year I want to race at the SA Champs again.”

 

Can you tell us how Velokhaya has helped you?

“Velokhaya motivate me a lot. Last month I lost my father who was the breadwinner. I’m now staying with my mother who is a domestic worker. I’m still pushing BMX – Velokhaya helps me a lot, and it is safe in Velokhaya”

 

What about your dreams and aspirations for the future?

“I want to race at the Olympics in 2020.”

 

Is there someone you admire in the sport that you draw motivation from?

“In future, I want to be like Conner Fields (@connorfields11).”

 

Bahle Dwangu

Please tell us a little about yourself, and what you have achieved so far.

“I’m 14 yrs old and started racing last year.

My first race, I won one gold medal and two bronze medals. My second race was the 2016 SA BMX Championships, and I won SA 4.”

 

Can you tell us how Velokhaya has helped you?

“Velokhaya helps me to stay away from the streets, and encourages me with my schoolwork.”

 

What about your dreams and aspirations for the future.

“This year my goal is to win SA 1 in the SA BMX Championships. I’m looking forwards to going to race at the Worlds.”

 

Is there someone you admire in the sport that you draw motivation from?

“My role model is Sam Willoughby (@SW91)”

Post Script; Subsequent to these interviews, I followed up with Sipho to see how Wanga and Bahle faired at the SA BMX Champs, looking to report on their results.
Sipho informed me that they did not have enough funding to send the athletes; “It was a bit difficult to tell them that they aren’t going and out of no money had to scrape through the Little that we had for food transportation and entries.”
Due to this lack of funding, sadley Bahle could not attend to fight for his ambitions. Wanga determinedly managed to make his own way to the event, and was supported by Velokhaya with food and accommodation only. His determination paid off with a 3rd place in the National Champs, and 7th (after a fall) in the SA Champs.

 

If you want to help the children and this organisation, up to 5% of every purchase of OORR apparel is donated to their programs - or better still, please visit www.velokhaya.com and make a direct donation. Particularly given the current water crisis in Cape Town, your help is needed now more than ever.