Welcome to the family! These kids may soon be riding your old bikes. A container of bikes is now on the way to Zwel Kids Club by way of the Rotary Club of Empangeni, our newest partner at Bikes for the World. In fact that shipment should arrive in South Africa before the end of the year.
Zwel Kids Club is a community Based Organization (CBO) that began 15 years ago as a means to feed hungry kids in Zwelisha, part of the Mpumalanga Province in Eastern South Africa. Before long they determined their kids needed more than a meal and shirt, they needed tools to help them mature. Zwel Kids Club then transform from a simple feeding program into a Life Centre that now serves as an after school care facility providing a safe space for vulnerable kids in the community.
In rural areas of Africa, outbreaks of certain diseases like malaria, AIDS, or Ebola can change the landscape of the community. When an epidemic wipes through a village it can take an entire generation with it, leaving behind orphans of every age. Specifically in Zwelisha, many households are headed by the oldest child who is left to care for his younger siblings. Before they even get the chance to grow up kids are assuming roles they aren't prepared to fill.
This is where Zwel Kids Club steps in. Colin Mathebula knows all too well how hard it is to grow up under these circumstances. Colin came to Zwel Kids Club when he was just 7 years old and basically he never left. He needed food and clothing, but what he found was love and support, something he didn't even know he needed. By the time he was a teenager he was still hanging around, volunteering his time, and giving back to kids who reminded him of himself. He didn't have much to give, but he had the one thing he knew these kids needed most, love.
Colin now runs the program and oversees more than 150 kids in the club. He watched a lot of youth drop out of school because they didn't have money for fees or books. He noticed they lacked discipline and weren't taking ownership of anything in their lives. Colin wanted to give them a chance to become someone, to be something. At Zwel Kids Club the kids are taught to take responsibility. They are expected to behave respectfully. Most of all they learn they are in a safe place.
About five years ago Colin added a bicycle component to the program. He saw some of the boys joining gangs and fighting with each other and knew they just needed to burn off some of their stress. There weren't enough activities for boys so he went out and bought a dozen bikes. Then he got more, and more- until he had an entire fleet of bikes; and Zwel Kids Club formed a cycling team, of boys and girls.
This is just something that happens when you bring together kids from so many different homes and so many different backgrounds. But once the guys started kicking around a soccer ball together and found themselves on the same team they learned how to get along. On the bike they were competing against themselves as much as they were each other but once they started enrolling in cycling races they became a team competing together. This taught them how to be humble and respect others. They learned to rely on each other and give back. They also learned how to master something they had never tried before. These were all critical ingredients Colin knew were important to becoming better adults.
My dream for the youth of Africa is that every child must stop doing bad things so we can change our country to being a better place of tomorrow.Thembalethu Nyalungu, Zwel Kids Club youth