Cycling against child abuse

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Five cyclists left their daily occupation to embark on a 12-day cycle tour in an effort to raise funds and create awareness against child abuse. The extreme cycle tour kickstarted on 27 February 2019 in Johannesburg and is expected to end on 10 March 2019 in Cape Town, after covering a distance of 1009 kilometres.

Two members from the five-men team of cyclists have been recruited from within the ranks of SAPS. Colonel Andre Van Rooyen from Graaff-Reinet SAPS Training Academy and Warrant Officer Gert Jonker from Saldanha Bay are part of the 1009km tour from Johannesburg to Cape Town cycling challenge.

Monica Strydom, who is the CEO at Matla A Bana, the NGO behind this philanthropic initiative, said because of their intervention, about 700 000 crimes were reported to police. “We work closely with police FCS Units, we implement Child Friendly facilities, offer support and supply comfort packs. We trained more than 60 000 police officers up to date. The extreme cycle tour is a tour we started after General Lamoer said, “Men must stand up and take responsibility for the rape of women and children”.”

She recalls how three business people met and decided to ‘do something.’

“We want to use our passion and cycle across the country to raise awareness,” they resolved.

Then we said, “you can’t just cycle, so we added a school outreach programme. ”

Up to date Monique Pretorius, one member of the cyclist group, said they have reached more than 40 000 school children in the past 6-7 years.

“In rural areas you seldom get a visit from educational programmes or groups, so we are very proud to have made a huge national impact with something that people are passionate about – cycling,” added Pretorius.

Participating in such a challenge does not come easy and takes its toll on one’s body. Physical fitness, endurance and stamina are a necessity but from external looks, all the participants have strong legs to die for and bodies fortified with fitness of a stallion. The bicycle saddle may not be so friendly on your posterior end after 100km or more but the five member team embrace every bit of this challenge believing every pain endured is worth it because of the noble intentions of the tour.

It has been seven years since Matla a Bana NGO began this extreme cycling challenge and have never looked back. According to Dirk Pretorius, a founder member of Extreme Cycle challenge and the only cyclist who has participated in all the seven previous challenges since 2013, “Through awareness we enlightened millions about the plight of abused children. Kids get educated about the reality of child abuse, how to report and how to assist”.

“More than R700.000 has been raised since the start of the tour. Child friendly reporting facilities at SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units were built with some of the funding in different parts of the country. Various training projects focusing on soft skills needed to assist victims were funded and provided.”

On 3 March, the team of five cyclists reached the Eastern Cape borders and visited Union Primary in Graaff Reinet, where they created an awareness about safety. About 200 young children immediately responded to Smiley, a friendly and entertaining Mascot and her assistant who got the kids aged between seven and twelve entertained while they were educated at the same time.

In Graaff Reinet, the team were ushered into the town by a police convoy and welcome by FCS provincial Commander Col Nqaphi, accompanied by local FCS members, Detectives Constables Sibulelo Rhawula and Velomia Abram.

Welcoming the team on behalf of Eastern Cape Provincial Commissioner Lt Gen Ntshinga, Col Nqaphi said police fully support and endorsed this initiative. “We understand why all of you are doing what you are doing. You are doing it because you love children and dont want them to get hurt,” said Col Nqaphi.

He thanked the Department of Education for allowing Matla a Bana to create such awareness at schools thus allowing an important message of personal safety to reach young children.

“We are a reactive unit but what Matla a Bana is doing is proactive. Lastly,thanks to Graaff Reinett FCS unit for bringing such experience in this town, your work does not go unnoticed,” said Col Nqaphi.

The team of cyclists left Graaff Reinet very early heading for Uniondale Hoerskool. You can follow them online at www.matlabana.co.za or Facebook at xtremeforkids cycle tour. Enquiries Capt Khaya Tonjeni-07 388 6272

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