Submitted by: Sageda de Klerk
The Fresh Start Cycling Club began thanks to the remarkable transformation in one man’s life – one man who decided to use his story to impact his community. Over 16 years ago, Abduraghiem de Klerk resolved to cure himself of his drug habit and, having given himself a fresh start in life through cycling, realized he had the ability to not only help himself, but many others too.
After a tough few years struggling with his addiction, Abduraghiem had been employed as a caretaker at a local school where many children came from poorer families. Upon receiving a bicycle as a gift, he used cycling to help him quit the addiction that had once ruled and destroyed his life. Once he had kicked the drugs, he started working on his matric, which he passed at age 52.
He resolved to cure himself of his drug habit and, having given himself a fresh start in life through cycling, realized he had the ability to not only help himself, but many others too.
Two years later he completed his trade test in Bricklaying and recently completed his final year of studying part-time doing a National Professional Diploma in Education at CPUT. His majors are Mathematics and Technology and he can now teach at a high school or lecture at the schools that teach skills.
But it was cycling that inspired him. Once he had his first bike, he started joining cycling groups and assisting at a local school with the training of the cycling teams. Living in an area where there are many families who struggle financially, and where crime and drugs are a constant problem for the youth, he and his wife, Sageda, decided to form a cycling club to help these young people.
The Fresh Start Cycling Club was founded three years ago with three young cyclists, but it grew quickly and now has 25 members. Money was always a problem and sponsors were hard to find, but Bill Rawson supplied them with gear and bikes and helped fund transport and repairs at times.
Another generous donor provided a trailer which could accommodate twenty bikes, but they still have to raise funds each month for transport to Killarney, Ottery, Century City, Durbanville, Paarl, Oudtshoorn, and even further afield. Transport costs are about R2000 per vehicle per trip and, depending on how many youngsters need to go, sometimes double that. Their aim is to save enough for two 22-seat buses and they have already managed to collect about R30 000 towards that.
From these small beginnings great success has grown. The club is now a registered NPO with a constitution and parents serving on the Executive Committee. Abduraghiem is the chairperson, with Sageda, who has been a school secretary for 35 years, overseeing the administrative side of the club.
For the past 5 years the club has been entering learners into the Western Province Scholars League and doing the Pedal Power Association Fun Rides. The younger members love racing in their age groups, and in some of the races they complete the shorter routes with the seniors doing the full routes.
Many of the members have been selected to represent Western Province in Oudtshoorn each year and have done extremely well, with the number of medals won by the teams confirming that their hard training has paid off. In 2018 the 7 selected club members came home with 15 medals between them, and with 18 in 2019.
“When we see state-of-the-art bikes and the training facilities that the more privileged use, taking podium among them with our bikes is quite an achievement for us all. It makes us extremely proud!” says Sageda.
Three years ago, the more senior boys were required to cycle from Ocean View to Killarney in order to take part in the Randall Februarie Memorial League event as they had no funds at all available for transport. These wonderful kids cycled the whole way, and after riding that entire distance, they still competed in the race, and several of them actually took the podium.
“Our team comes from underprivileged homes”, says Sageda, “where a single parent often spearheads the family. Sometimes parents are unemployed or just unable to assist their child. The team meets at our little house and most days we feed some of them before cycling as they might not have had anything to eat at home. These kids have grown to be part of us; it is like they are our family. After cycling we provide a meal out of our own pockets, and at times we must remind them to go home. They just love sitting together and sharing their experiences and achievements, whether good or bad. We all so enjoyed watching the Tour de France together.”
“It is such a good feeling when you know you have made a difference to these boys and girls; when you allow them to grow up with a different mindset which enables them to make good choices in life. Some have been offered drugs; some have made friends with the wrong crowd, and some have lost their way; but they soon discover their mistakes.
One thing that should be said here is that we monitor their schoolwork and results, always emphasizing that education is important. They get reprimanded when an educator reports to us (and not their parents at times) that their discipline and results are not up to standard at school.”
“Our team is growing, and they have become role models in the community. New recruits, and sometimes their parents, knock on our door daily asking to join up. They see cycling as an alternative to drugs, alcohol abuse, and gangsterism.”
The small club is being applauded at many events and the cycling fraternity admire these children who are doing so well against heavy odds.
Some of the cyclists long to become South African Champions, enter the Olympics, or become professional cyclists, and it is for this reason that the club intends sending four of them to the Netherlands in July 2020.
At present only one adult, Sageda, is able to accompany them, although two would be so much better. But the costs are between R25 000 to R30 000 per person and these monies need to be raised by each parent, which is incredibly difficult for them.
The club has established a Facebook page where people follow the club’s progress and regularly donate parts as well as bikes. Abduraghiem has himself become very adept as the resident bike mechanic. The small club is being applauded at many events and the cycling fraternity admire these children who are doing so well against heavy odds. The youngsters’ times often match those of the top cyclists in the country, which is a testimony to the discipline that they have been taught. Training takes place after school and during weekends when the kids often leave Ocean View at 5am, no matter what the weather.
It is always tremendously inspiring to hear about brave people, and the de Klerk family have shown the world that fresh starts are indeed possible, and that through them others can be shown the way to a good life too. Sageda and Abduraghiem have three children who have been encouraged by their parents’ example to take education very seriously. Nadia is studying Early Childhood Development 5 this year, followed by a BEd, Rafiq is a qualified diesel mechanic, and the youngest, Aneeka, has finished her ECD level 4 and 5 and is currently registered for her BEd.
The Fresh Start Cycling Club has an amazing website which is well worth a look, especially if one can help their efforts in any way.
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