Team GIBS – alumni cycling for a worthy cause.

I got there at 06:17 and I was late. It looked like half the group had taken off already. There was still a chill in the air but the parking lot was half-full already. No, I wasn’t flying anywhere, I had a bicycle perched on the tail-end of my car and good intentions at heart. It was Saturday morning in The Cradle of Humankind, Johannesburg’s cycling playground. After a sustained rally of WhatsApp exchanges, Team GIBS had sort of “compromised” a 06:00 take-off from one of the popular coffee joints. I soon spotted a few other stragglers, Joseph, Busi and Koos. Forever the optimist, Joseph, who doubles up as Team GIBS’ chief whip, declared that we’d catch up with the others. Apparently, Elton who had pushed for a 05:30 start was still in Durban, Thando had overslept and Fran was travelling on business. So, with bicycles off the cars and our lycra tights hitched up, we mounted and rolled off into the crisp and chilly morning.

All-in-all we are a little short of R1 million and still going...

As the mild headwind brought tears to my eyes, I thought of the warm bed I had abandoned and reflected on the need and reasons for parking a semi-decent German sedan and balancing on a skinny Canadian two-wheeled bicycle for 60 kilometres. To complete it, my trusted steed has Taiwanese wheels, a Japanese gearset and brakes, and an Italian-made saddle. Enough geography to confound some contemporary presidents. Then out of the blue, Joseph shouts, “How is your Back-a-Buddy page coming along?” I am furiously pedalling to try and catch up with the Ofentses and Shibishis. Joseph wants to know how much money I have raised. To buy time, I shout back, “Good chief! Have you seen Girland has now raised more than R7 000!” Team GIBS rides for charity. That’s why we show up at unholy hours and persist with entering the 94.7 Cycle Challenge each year, even though the chances of one of us ever winning the race are one of two – slim and none. But honestly, even the slim chance is beyond consideration. And yet, we ride.

About Team GIBS

Part of the distinguishing ethos espoused by GIBS is the nurturing of responsible and active citizens. For the MBA students, there is often a caveat to “focus on the studies”, you will have plenty of time and, hopefully, money after the two years and once you have those three letters affixed to your name. Fittingly, over the years, a growing number of students and alumni have donned lycra and taken to riding their bicycles for worthy causes. 

It’s the story of countless youngsters in South Africa’s dusty townships who refuse to believe that Maths is difficult.

That’s where the story of Team GIBS begins. We have a motley crew, a true rainbow mix ranging from distracted insomniac assignment-chasers, the brash Comrades runners, new parents (post-MBA fertility), competitive couples and some post-MBA, middle-aged men in lycra (MAMILs). 

It’s a story worth telling because it’s also the story of a bright young lady, named Auspicious, who has no parents, no money, siblings to support, unfettered ambition and wants to be a psychologist. It’s the story of countless youngsters in South Africa’s dusty townships who refuse to believe that Maths is difficult. And it’s also the story of Kgomotso, a young man from Olivienhoutbosch, whose dream of becoming an Engineer is now a work-in-progress. These are some of the beneficiaries of the funds raised to date by Team GIBS. All-in-all we are a little short of R1 million and still going. 

The real winners – our beneficiaries

As for the 2017 Team GIBS contingent, we rode the race and all of us finished. We raised university tuition fees for Auspicious Nokuzotha Ndlovu, the bright young lady, now a University of the Free State Psychology student. Furthermore, we raised enough funds to pay for Auspicious’s tuition and fees for the whole year and, in addition, she has been equipped with a laptop. Auspicious is now well on her way to completing her degree and her success has been a source of inspiration for her siblings and others. Donations were also made to CareerBuild that is doing excellent work in high schools across South Africa.

This was not the first time the team has ridden for charity – the rides have been part our annual programme for the past four years. What has been particularly rewarding for some of us over the years were the opportunities to meet the recipients of our efforts and witness their growth. The first charity ride dates back to 2014 when 30 GIBS students and alumni first participated as a co-ordinated team in the 94.7 Cycle Challenge. Just to ensure transparency and avoid misrepresentation, Team GIBS does not aspire to tackle the Tour de France!  However, with sponsorship, we are determined to make a difference in our society. In that first year, the benefiting charity selected was an orphanage. R200 000 was raised and used to build and furnish the house in Ivory Park that is now home to 35 orphans. 

Each year since 2014, the number of participants has steadily grown. The funds raised have, among others, enabled Kgomotso Mathokoane from Olievenhoutbosch Secondary School to enrol for a Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Johannesburg. Kgomotso was subsequently awarded a full bursary worth R500 000 by Fuchs Lubricants South Africa.

Those eager to clock the miles on a bicycle for fun, for greater good, for that fitness resolution, for the youth of South Africa, or for using up all the free time you are rediscovering post your studies, the invitation is open... Why not ride for a worthy cause? And yes, it can be done with any bicycle. But be warned: like most sports, once the cycling bug has bitten, you are hooked for life. The next time someone asks how you are contributing to a better South Africa or about your grasp of the Sustainable Development Goals, you will be able to tell them how you wake up early and get on a bicycle to welcome the African dawn among a band of like-minded heroes in lycra.

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