Bikers for Mandela Day riders reflect on their journey around South Africa
As much as this year’s Bikers For Mandela Day has been a physical challenge over the 2 200kms that will have been covered by the time the bikers arrive back tomorrow, the emotional impact on the group has been as powerful.
After visiting three projects in Mpumulanga over the weekend (July 16th and 17th), the team has found it increasingly difficult to hold back the tears when faced with the difficult circumstances too many South Africans live in.
They started at the Nelspruit Community Forum - where the bikers spent their 67 minutes building a room divider for a place that houses abandoned children, children orphaned by HIV/AIDS or young, pregnant teens forced to leave their homes. The tears carried on during painting at the Masoyi Special Care Centre where the children have some support from the Vodacom Foundation and the local Rotary but not enough to afford the physiotherapists and occupational therapists they so badly need. And, a day later at the Emmanuel Family Home in Graskop where children come to be cared for after facing the horror of abuse, the bikers couldn’t hold back the tears that flowed in between erecting a vegetable tunnel and planting seeds.
“What has become starkly clear on this trip is that as much as our 67 minutes changes something at the community projects we visit for the better, this trip has also changed each and every one of us,” says Ruth Rensburg, Resource Development Manager of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.
“Doing something that continues Mr Mandela’s example of humanity is not a one-way activity. We have all been profoundly touched by what we have seen on this trip. It’s not just the fact that so many communities are battling just to survive but it’s also about seeing how people keep their spirits up even under the worst conditions.”
The love that has gone around, along with the painting, repairing, and building at the various community projects, has seen the bikers connect with South Africa’s children in a big way. At the home in Graskop, Hanna Grobler was tasked with being the game master and before long had the kids playing rotten eggs, and strawberries, met with their squeals of delight. Hykie Berg also never wasted a chance to muck around with the children and Angie Khumalo was trying hard not to adopt every child there!
So powerful has the impact been on the bikers that they already are talking about how to continue their efforts long after Bikers For Mandela Day 2011 comes to an end on July 18th.
“Living out this call to action on Mandela Day has shown us all that this is something we can so easily do in our everyday lives,” says Ruth. “It speaks to who we are, fundamentally, as South Africans. We are a people who will give a cup of sugar or share their biltong or chat to someone on the street. This has been a powerful reminder of that, of the ability of people to come together and we hope many people will follow in our bike tracks after our trip ends tomorrow.”
Monday July 18th sees Bikers For Mandela Day return to Gauteng, after having visited one more community project in Belfast in the morning. Fittingly, the group arrives back in Gauteng on Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday – easing back the throttle of their bikes for the last time on this trip, but never pulling back on a renewed commitment to play their role as citizens of the world and in service of humanity.