25 October 2013
Africa’s first professional continental cycling outfit, Team MTN-Qhubeka, has been hugely beneficial to Qhubeka, the charity’s founder, Anthony Fitzhenry said on Thursday.
“The awareness the team has brought to the charity has completely surpassed my expectations,” Fitzhenry said in a statement. “I was completely surprised by the amount of support.
“Our objectives are still clear. There are 12-million children walking to school in South Africa, and we want to change that.”
Distributed over 40 000 bicycles
The charity started in 2005 and has since distributed over 40 000 bicycles. It has found that a child’s commute to school can be reduced by up to 75% with a bicycle.
Interestingly, when he first thought of starting the initiative, bicycles weren’t on top of the list for Fitzhenry. “When we started Qhubeka we wanted to get the internet into rural areas,” he admitted.
“What the internet does is it levels the technology playing field, because you could have a child who is sitting in a Kwazulu-Natal rural area who has got access to the best content in the world with the internet. The problem we found soon after was a lack of access to schools.
‘Education is the key’
“Education is the key to building a good life. We found some children were walking to school for up to three hours and were exhausted by the time they got there.”
Fitzhenry said Qhubeka has increased its capability by joining forces with World Bicycle Relief. In the past they have worked together sourcing bicycles and bicycle parts, and this year they formalised the relationship to work towards a common goal.
“In partnering with World Bicycle Relief, Qhubeka has become a global organization,” Fitzhenry said. “We’re much bigger now in that there’s a head office in Chicago, with engineers in China, where people manage the supply chain. It gives us much more capability and longer sustainability.
“My view has always been that charities with common goals should not be working against each other but should be working together and leverage their resource.”
What has surprised Fitzhenry the most in the last few years was the willingness of big companies to support Qhubeka.
“We’ve been delighted at the major brands in the world who’ve come on board. People like MTN and Coca-Cola getting involved is really good for us,” Fitzhenry said.
“The goals are still the same. We’ve learnt a lot of things along the way. Going forward, we’d like to get more government support too.”