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From small things big 'chains' can happen

I was standing off to one side, using the moment to take it all in. I was watching and listening to the excitement of the young students as they were riding and showing their brand new bicycles to their friends and families. There were kids riding bicycles in all directions. Some looking really focused as it was their first time trying to ride a bicycle, and others racing as fast as they could to test their brand new bicycle to its limits.

It was Saturday afternoon, 15 October 2022, and we were at the #Inkwazi #BIKES4ERP bicycle drop, as part of our #UHAMBO2022 life-changing adventure. We had just given 60 young school students their very own brand new bicycle. Why a bicycle I can hear you ask? Well, let me explain.

We were standing at the Pitsedisulejang local community hall which is located in the North West Province, South Africa. This is about 290km from Pretoria. We were there to change the lives of young school students forever.

See, across these remote communities, some students walk up to 20 km a day to get to school and back. For some students, that means walking 4 - 5 hours a day just to go to school... 5 days a week. This often leads to exhaustion, lack of concentration, and even worse, most students drop out of school before they get to year 12. In fact, one of the principles indicated that before the bicycles, their matriculation rate was less than 40%.

However, with a bicycle, the journey to school may now only be 40 minutes, meaning students have easier, faster and safer access to education. More importantly, these students were then empowered to further their education, get employment, and make a positive contribution to their community.

The same principle confirmed that after the bicycles their matriculation improved to over 90%.

So, there I was standing to one side, reflecting on what had just happened. I realised how the lives of 60 students had just changed forever and I saw the joy on the faces.

Suddenly I saw one of the young girls walking up to me with her brand new bicycle. She had a brave but nervous look. I could see she wanted to ask me something. So I asked her, "Is there something wrong with your bicycle". With a smile of relief, she said there was something wrong with the breaks. So I inspected it and made a few minor adjustments to correct them.

These bicycles were only put together that morning with the help of 40 volunteers, so sometimes a few minor adjustments are required to iron out any minor issues. While I did this I asked her what her name was. Her name was Ria, and she was about 9 years old.

Young school girl with a new bicycle
Ria with her brand new #BIKES4ERP bicycle

As I handed the bicycle back to her, I saw she wanted to ask me another question. So I asked her if she had ever ridden a bicycle before. She said that this was her first time. Naturally, my next question was, can I help you learn to ride, and she gave me a big smile.

So I instructed her to get on, as I held her bicycle up, and encouraged her to start pedalling. She started moving and I could see the joy in her smile as I ran next to her. I kept reminding her to keep pedalling to keep her momentum; otherwise, the bicycle would fall over. Now and then I let go, so she could learn how to balance and understand how when she slowed down she may start losing her balance... I caught her every time to stop her from completely falling over.

Young girls learning to ride a bicycle
Ria learning to ride her brand new bicycle

As we got to the gate of the school she asked if we could keep going and we turned left onto the gravel road. The other students were racing past us and the parents and community members were watching with excitement. Ria was determined to learn how to ride, so she kept on pedalling and I kept on running next to her.

What struck me was how her friends and community members were cheering her on. They all knew how big a gift and opportunity this was.

As we got to the end of the road, Ria asked me if we could keep going. She promised me she would get the hang of riding a bicycle soon. What I realised was how concerned she was that the bicycle might be taken away from her if she could not ride it. So I suggested to her that instead of going back, why don't we go around the block. She agreed with a big smile.

Little did I know this block was about 2 km long, but I guessed for Ria who walked 10 km a day to school this was a small block. So I kept running, encouraging and coaching her as we made our way on the sandy road amongst the houses. Again, neighbours were standing outside, cheering Ria on as everyone wanted to see her succeed. I didn't understand their language (they speak Setswana in the community), but I could see in their body language and excitement they wanted Ria to succeed.

We were about halfway and I needed a break to catch my breath. Ria stopped for a moment and I decided to ask her a few questions to make up some time... and catch my breath. I wanted to find out more about where she lives, her family and the community. And then I asked her a question in which her answer gave me goosebumps.

I asked Ria, "What do you want to be when you grow up?". She confidently responded that she wanted to be a social worker so that she could help others in the community.

This little girl, who does not have much herself, wants to grow up and help those in need. More importantly, she was now set up to finish school, so she could go to university and become the social worker she wanted to be. I reassured her that she should never give up on her dream, and always work hard to learn and she will get there.

She started riding again; I kept running next to her as we made our way around the block back towards the school. A second insight appeared to me. Ria had been learning to ride the bicycle, often losing her balance, without any complaints.

Not once had she given up, or said this was too hard... in fact, it was the total opposite. Instead, she kept reassuring me that she would learn to ride the bicycle at any moment.

As we turned the final corner, we could see the school in the distance. I gave her a challenge. By the time we got to school, I would no longer hold the bicycle. Instead, I wanted her to ride into school by herself to show everyone she could ride her bicycle.

What she did not know, was the last 200m I had been letting go of her seat and she was riding by herself most of the time. I just caught her when she lost her balance in the soft sand.

With a big smile she agreed and we got going. As I ran next to her, and without holding her seat, I cheered her on. As we got closer to school, I cheered louder because this was a big moment for Ria... For the first time ever she was riding her bicycle without any help, in front of her school, friends and the community. Everyone was cheering her on as she turned into the school.

I am sure some people were amazed to see her riding by herself, when only moments earlier she was this shy girl who had never ridden a bicycle. She was back with a confident big smile, riding her brand new bicycle.

As we stopped at the school, I gave her a big high five and reminded her to work hard and never give up on her goal.

Young girl with her new bicycle
Ria having just learned to ride her new bicycle

These are the unforgettable life-changing moments that RESET your perspective on life, to let you REFLECT on your own life and to RECONNECT you with what is important.

With every bicycle delivered, another student's life changes forever, as they are set up to take on life and make a positive difference in their community. Through something as small as a bicycle, you can see how it starts a chain reaction to a positive impact on the life of the student, their family and community... and even on the adventurer delivering the bicycle. (In this case, it was me)

The Adventure Life Lesson

At Inkwazi Adventures we believe there is a life lesson (or lessons) in every adventure. Through the priceless experience of giving a student a new bicycle, and helping them learn how to ride, it reminds us that;

  1. To grow and learn, you need to keep moving. Ria learned that to ride the bicycle she needed to keep moving otherwise she would fall over. Life is often like riding a bicycle. If you stand still, you will fall over, so just keep pedalling. And if you fall off, get back on. You will get better, and soon you will be riding without anyone holding your seat.

  2. It is all about mindset: Ria is such a positive, resilient and ambitious little girl. Instead of thinking about all the reasons why it would be too hard and dangerous to learn to ride the bicycle, she instead gave herself an ambitious goal of learning to ride by the time she got back to school. Life is hard, often with new surprises. But as long as you are open to learn and grow, who knows what you could do next

  3. From small things big chains (and change) can happen: Always look at the bigger picture. That one bicycle has changed Ria's life forever. Because now she is more likely to finish school, go to university and become a social worker. We can all start a positive chain reaction and change lives one adventure at a time.

Take a look at that special moment when Ria realises she has just learned to ride her brand new bicycle...

Retold by Inkwazi Adventures leader, Charles Street, as it happened on our UHAMBO 2022 adventure.

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