News from SA - Spring 2007

April 2023

Once again I was able to go on a self funded visit to Net vir Pret for 6 weeks from Jan-March 2023.  It was wonderful to see that the new extension was now complete and that Herman had ensured that safety railings had been put up around the balcony area.

Children were no longer having to wear face masks as last year, COVID seems to be over in the sunshine of SA, thank goodness.  

I spent a lot of time in the Centre meeting staff and children and taking photos.  There were so many children sometimes that certain activities, especially the after school care group, were overwhelmed.  I helped them to put a system in place to count the children in and then a decision could be made immediately to set up a new group to take the extra children.  This was working well and new activities were being put in place by staff and interns.

The children obviously enjoyed their daily bowl of food cooked in the Net vir Pret kitchen by Fabian and distributed by a well organised rota system.  It was clearly a real necessity for some of the children and the boiled boans were sucked until they were completely clean of marrow, the two NvP resident dogs loved this of course!

It was good to see the computer suite being used well and Nataniel was putting on sessions for children who had clearly never turned a computer on - many were from the Farm Schools where they just do not have access to such technology.  The children loved having a go.

Clarisa had a different group for her 11yrs plus craft sessions daily, sometimes 12 youngsters squashed around her large table using cardboard and glue to make hangings or cards.  All the children love to make things and they start young in Donna's group for those aged 4-10 years where she makes fabulous crafts which hang from the rafters and are pinned around the walls.  The school has given feedback that the motor skills of the children who go to Donna's group are really great, they also learn to listen and to take instructions.  There are a lot of young boys in her group this year and they can be a bit unruly but they absolutely loved playing in the dirt outside with the cars and lorries which we purchased for this group.  They are in need of more stimulting things to play with - and of course anything with wheels seems to go down really well!  They all love dressing up too but this time they adored the big sun hats which were sent over tucked in my suitcase from Alessandro, a young friend, who found a load of her toys and puzzles which she parcelled up for the Net vir Pret youngsters.  My suitcase was heavy but it is worth it.

The youngsters love going out on their cycles and Selanvor organises weekly groups.  This year Alfie arrived from the UK to volunteer, he flew over on his own and spent 2 weeks with Selanvor, helping out.  He was given an extra week off school by his headteacher to allow him to visit as a 15 year old and he learnt such a lot as well as helping out with reading groups, cycling and spectacular sessions of tie dying which went fantastically.

I could go on but if you want to know more please join the "Friends of EDSA" group and you will get my updates and photos.

I know one thing, I miss being with the children and the staff of Net vir Pret and of course the sunshine of South Africa.


May 1st 2017.

It is hard to believe that it is 10 years since EDSA had a major fundraising Cycle Project in South Africa.  It really kick started many initiatives for Net vir Pret as it raised a lot of money.  We are now needing to fundraise again using the same method but this time along the old Ox wagon routes from Barrydale to the sea taking in some of the most wonderful views from the top of the Langerberg mountains as well as enjoying the superb beaches around the Whitsands area.  

The ride was a great success although several riders dropped out for a number of reasons outside of their control.  Sadly they missed a wonderful event.

Only 2 riders, Gary and Rachel, did the complete ride but I also managed to complete a day myself just to show willing!! The pinnacle of the ride for me was on the last day when a posse of youngsters from the Project Hope group within Net vir Pret arrived in the NvP van and pickup truck with their bikes to accompany the riders on the last part of the journey.  There was some concern over some of the bikes however in spite of one youngster only have flip flops to ride in they all managed to ride up "heartbreak hill" and 2 managed to do it without a stop.  Amazing.  There are some wonderful photos of these youngsters tucking into a wonderful meal at the end of their ride.  (I am so sorry that my limited ability on the web site means that I am unable to download them!!)

EDSA can only thank the amazing cyclists and the wonderful people who sponsored them.  We made almost £4000 which was a wonderful endeavour.  This includes funds from Clive who was unable to do make the ride at the last minute but did a triathlon later as he had gathered sponsorship and he was keen to honour this.  Many thanks to him.

Dave Simpson from Barrydale did all the local organisation and he was a splendid guide and route planner.  The group stayed in wonderful accommodation and saw an amazing array of animals and flowers as they journeyed around the beautiful karroo in the Western Cape.








December 10th 2012.  EDSA has just had a trustee meeting to discuss use of funds but mainly to discuss how to raise more money for work with township children in SA.  It is very hard to keep zapping our friends and family for donations all the time and they are v supportive and generous.  We have fundraising gig this Saturday - see front page.  Should be fun and fingers crossed we will make some money towards staff costs and for more toys in the Toy Library.  Judy



The following diary/blog was written over a period of 3 months in 2007 and is about the lead up to and during the first EDSA sponsored bike ride in South Africa.  This event raised a considerable amount of funding (£50000 +) for EDSA projects. 

The feedback was very positive from all participants who were also introduced to the work of several of the EDSA funded projects.  Everyone also visited Robben Island as well as going to an inspirational ASSET Saturday School session in Khayalisha.  Everyone took part in a Net Vir Pret drumming workshop and visited a small Farm School.  People were touched by their experiences and understood more where their sponsorship funding would be going to.

EDSA Trustees will be organising our next sponsored event in early 2010 - walking in the Overberg/Little Karoo.  This time we hope those involved will be doing some community based work alongside our project staff. 

10 Jan 2007

News in today from Ann Brown (EDSA Trustee) who is currently in Barrydale, South Africa working with the Net Vir Pret administrator to put together some information on the projects which are underway.

Excitement mounting ready for the big EDSA sponsored fundraising bike ride which takes place between 4th and 13th March 2007. Val Webster is the UK co-ordinator and she is pulling all the strands together. EDSA will be working with Cyclewild UK and Daytrippers SA to ensure the ride is well run and the cyclists are well looked after during their efforts. There are 19 registered riders at the moment including 2 young people aged 14 years who are both cycling with a parent.

Take a look at the fundraising pages of Rowland and Patrick Geraets and of Laura Bowlby and Jane Harrison. We are delighted that these young people are showing such committment to support other young people in the townships of South Africa. Congratulations.

EDSA is also saying an enormous thanks to the other participants who come in all age groups, shapes, sizes and from varied backgrounds and working environments. We know that they will all enjoy this challenge and also the opportunity to see some of the projects EDSA supports and most importantly meet some of the children and young people.

Participants: David Brodie, Philip Brodie, Simon Gundry, Wendy Gundrie, Martin Ledego, Tony Talbot, Jeremy Franks, Jill Ebrey, Martin Spring, Peter Carson, Peter Thornton, Stephen Adler, Rowland Geraets, Patrick Geraets, Laura Bowlby, Jane Harrison, Dave Lock, Gary Lock, Clare Checksfield. Watch this space.

11 Jan 2007

Have just spoken with Ann Brown, EDSA Trustee, who is already out in South Africa. Ann is staying in Barrydale at the moment and is working with the Net Vir Pret team. Net Vir Pret has a summer school project running at the moment and 60 plus children and young people aged from 4 years to 14 years are involved in a small concert tomorrow night.

Ann tells me that they have been learning to play the marimba (African xylophone) and drums for this event, and doing very well too. She is also directing them in a little play in English and they are also doing one in Afrikaans. Net Vir Pret is hoping that this concert will encourage parents to come and support their children in fun but educational projects. Good luck and no broken legs please!

News for the bike ride - Val tells me that she has had enquiries from 3 people who are thinking of getting involved at this late stage! Whew, will have to wait and see - plane to be booked, accommodation to be found BUT if they can raise the funding then we will do what we can to involve them. So will the intrepid 19 become the daring 21? More news later.

13 Jan 2007

Busy times as I prepare to go over to South Africa to visit the various projects we are supporting and to hopefully work with Peter, the Net Vir Pret youth worker, on some of the after school sessions.

Still fundraising like mad and attending a disco this evening at Wolfson College, Oxford. The profit from this will go to EDSA and another African charity AROSA which is working in Kenya. EDSA is keen to support the work of other charities especially where we know about the work in detail and are confident that it really happens. Gilbert Oteyo is the organiser of AROSA and is a great friend.

Thanks to Wolfson College Oxford, Jane, Chris, Megan and David for their hard work preparing for this. lets hope we get plenty of punters. I am putting up a small EDSA exhibition as well - wonderful photographs taken by young people within their own township comunities.

14 Jan 2007

Disco fundraiser was a success and great fun. Money is still coming in but around 280 pounds should be going to each charity.

16 Jan 2007 from Cape Town

Arrived after long journey via Frankfurt. Glad the participants of our great charity cycle ride will be travelling direct to Cape Town from Heathrow, less tiring - they will need their stregnth!!

An email waiting from Val Webster to say we have one more rider signed up and ready to go with full funding. Now we are 20 - great news.

Staying with Ann Brown (founding Trustee of EDSA) for a short time in Cape Town before moving to Montagu until the cycle ride. Ann has just returned from Barrydale where a very successful Net Vir Pret summer school week culminated in a magnificent concert attended by 300 people including parents and freinds of the children and young people. Ann said that they performed incredibly well and their marimba and drum playing were fantastic - so much so that they had the whole audience dancing in the aisles of the local community centre. Another Net Vir Pret success, can't wait to see for myself. I think they have some ideas in store for the riders who will meet the young people from Net Vir Pret at the start of their ride.

Met our old friend Derek Joubert, Director of ASSET - he gave a quick update especially about the matriculation results which he is currently analysing. He is frantically busy at the moment as the bursary applications are being processed. We will meet again to discuss ASSET/EDSA issues in more depth and visit the township Saturday school prior to the cyclists visit at the end of their ride. Hope to visit Mowbray to say hi to the ASSET staff and hopefully meet some of the new bursars.

17 Jan 2007

Ann met with another ngo today to discuss volunteer training. Net Vir Pret has young volunteers from a local school but some of them are much better than others. Relevant training and methods of working with volunteers were on the agenda. Looking forward to meeting the Net team to share ideas about this - how to motivate, enthuse and maintain the interest of volunteers.

Those cyclists who have not already been to South Africa/Cape Town will be knocked out with the amazing scenery from white sandy beaches (many with very few people) to the famous fynbos - the equivalent to our heathland but with loads more variety of plants. The bird life is superb so bring your binoculars too - saw the little egret, the habeda ibis and several guinea fowl. Not bad for the first day!

Saw this sign in Hoots Bay along the coast from Cape Town - our fish is fresh, anything fresher is still swimming - this is no exageration; be prepared for seriously good fish here!

Off to check out some local cycing shops tomorrow - maybe we'll get some sponsorship? Hope all cyclists are doing well with theirs! Will also meet up with DayTrippers the South African end of the organisation who are ensuring the cycle ride is expertly organised.

19 Jan 2007

Interesting weather over the last 2 days - beautiful, sunny, hot and then the cloud came down and there was drizzle for the whole day. Then it became beautiful, sunny, hot but then a huge wind started and the famous Table Mountain tablecloth appeared, seemed to be shaken then disappeared only to reappear as a thicker wider cloth! Amazing views.

We have been to some cycle shops, the best being the Olympic Cycles in Claremont - huge, very well arranged and great stock. Gary was able to buy very good padded shorts (a must for all riders) and several other useful items including a puncture repair kit!

We then found the famous DayTrippers - the company who are arranging the route, the accommodation etc. Very impressed, they are enthusiastic and know what they are doing. They had recced the ride in detail and are now preparing full instructions. It looks fantastic, interesting and off road for quite a lot of the way. This means that cyclists are out of the way of other traffic and the tracks are supposed to be in good condition (no big ruts etc). Ann Brown and I will take a closer look at the route ourselves - not by bicycle though!

Ann bought a huge pile of toys for the Net Vir Pret toy libraries. If cyclists want to bring over any toys for the children in the after school club then they would be gratefully received. More information about Net Vir Pret to come. We also met up again with Derek Joubert, Director of ASSET. He is meeting with all the teachers of the Saturday school this weekend and the school starts back on 27th January after the summer vacation. I am looking forward to a visit some time in February.

We are leaving Cape Town tomorrow for Montagu which is fairly close to Barrydale where the ride starts.

22 Jan 2007 from Montagu

Interesting journey from Cape Town into this small town with picturesque buildings and amazing scenery - a backdrop of mountains. Excellent and fast road passing by Goudini Spa (one of the stop off points) and Robertson (another one).

Hmm - yes there are definitely going to be some uphill parts to this charity cycle ride but nothing too onerous - occording to Daytrippers who are supporting the ride. The views will certainly make the effort worth it.

Driving along one of Montagu's streets and suddenly saw a tree which appeared to be alive - it was covered with large birds, ibis and bigger, we had to stop to gawp! Any cyclists should bring along a bird book - or maybe agree amongst yourselves who should bring one along. The birds here are plentiful and different! I recognised guinea fowl and ostrich but so many other birds are exotic species to me. Not to mention the tortoise who wandered across the lawn in front of me! Off to Barrydale tomorrow to meet up with the guys from Net Vir Pret and hope to have a look at the hotel you will all be staying in.

Oh, have just received details of the route from Daytrippers - so now Ann and I can drive some of it and let you know how it looks in detail. Signing off now from the Montagu internet cafe.

23 Jan 2007

Wow, it is really scorching today and I have just returned from Barrydale along the famous Route 62 - fascinating karoo scenery. Stopped at a small farm school on the way with Ann Brown. We were delivering some toys to a new toy library EDSA is trying to encourage within the school.

The first sight I had was of the entrance festooned in flowers made from plastic bottles, completed as part of a Net Vir Pret project, they also festooned the fences which made a great sight along the dusty road. An ostrich peered over the fence at us in solitary splendour!

The school is single storey and probably 3 classrooms, I only visited one. There were about 25 to 30 children ranging from 8 to 12 years in the room. All seemed much smaller and daintier than the average room full of UK children. They were hard at work doing mathematics so I guess we were a good disturbance. We spoke to their teacher and dropped off the toys, we spoke a little to the children whose first language is Africaans - a few understood English. They were asked how many of them had toys at home, only 2 raised their hands - one boy who had a car for Christmas and a girl who had some sort of electronic game! They were clearly delighted at the idea of a toy library - we were a bit unsure as to how the few toys we were delivering would be divided up!

Then on to Barrydale to meet the Net Vir Pret youth worker, Peter, and watch him in action with a group of 15 youngsters using djembie drums to enthuse them to learn. They were discussing colours and shapes and he had them in a circle with coloured counters of various shapes in the middle. He was telling stories and they were drumming - immitating rain drops or quiet footsteps or excited children! etc. Then he was asking one to pick out the red and blue circles and so on. In this way he checks who knows what and tries to reinforce their knowledge in a fun way. He also notes those who are slow and tries to ensure he gets a little time with them on a one to one basis later. Peter is clearly committed, skilled and so hardworking. He has just run the most successful summer school so far. He is usig youth work processes to deliver curriculum issues - he would fit into the UK youth scene with no problem.

We also met Landi who is his helper and Donna who is doing some of the administration for Net Vir Pret at the moment. Donna and Ann are finishing off the first Net Vir Pret community newsletter, so that the good work can be celebrated and become more embedded with both parents and the community. Hard work on such a hot hot day.

More work to do tomorrow - back to Barrydale to continue the fun.

25 Jan 2007 from Scorching in Montagu

I spent much of yesterday in Barrydale, tidying up the Net Vir Pret newsletter with Ann Brown and Donna - who was doing all the administration as well as translating it into Africaans. We had to get it down from 4 pages to 2 sides of A4 with pictures, as the cost of printing is quite high. It is looking good now, and so it should be the time Ann and Donna have given to this missive. It is the first Net Vir Pret newsletter which will go out into the community and to the Farm Schools so it is important for the project profile.

I spent more time with Peter - I was able to help him to think through some issues about forward strategy and how to deliver this, for a course he is doing. It was just like old times for me, working with youth workers to pull their ideas from them and help them to articulate them - most of them hate this sort of thing as they are doers rather than writers and Peter is exactly the same.

Whilst we were struggling to find the right words some of the children burst in and began to play on the marimba. this is an African xylophone made completely of wood and played with 2 sticks (similar to drum sticks). They had learnt how to play at the recent summer school - the 3 children amazed me - swopping over and playing quite sophisticated tunes together - amazing that they have had so little training, great to see their enthusiasm. Not so good for my concentration as the temperature soared into the high 30's and the computer kept crashing!! Peter is clearly a very gifted and intuitive youth and communtiy worker - much of the work is very familiar including the prospective youth forum which he is trying to get set up. He has a group of young people keen to be involved but apparently the regional forum is not yet working well. We discussed ways of supporting this kind of development. I will be spending more time with Peter and the young people, can't wait.

Drove back along the R32, which will become a familiar road for me. It is certainly beautiful - surrounded in parts by mountains and with dry bushland interspersed by farms with the inevitable cluster of farm workers houses - some looking very poor and inadequate others in good condition. The Farm Schools line the route and Peter is working in 5 of these small schools for net Vir Pret, trying to give the youngsters a taste of his fun methods.

The road is excellent and fast and at times runs high above the surrounding vegetation - then suddenly dropping and there in the distance is a golden glow. I wondered what this could be - Ann enlightened me. Row upon row of apricots drying in thesunshine. This is indeed one of the centres of the fruit picking industry and large wagons laden with containers of fruit roar past. Not too many cyclist on the road today though! Off to the pool for a cooling dip! (Sorry to hear about the snow in the UK!)

30 Jan 2007 from Montagu

Well, we have had 2 cooler days - quite a relief from the heat but a bit of a surprise, especially yesterday during a visit to Barrydale when we suddenly seemed to be high in the clouds and it was raining. Warm rain, but never the less rain! Ann and I were busy in Barrydale meeting various people, all with some sort of an interest or involvement with Net Vir Pret. On the way we called in at 2 of the small Farm Schools on route 62 to see how the toy libraries were going. One appeared to have many more toys available than the other - of course some were out with children but inevitably toys are broken and also disappear. Not surprising when there are so many of the children wanting to play with a few toys - they really do not have anything to play with in their homes. These children live in very small farm labourer cottages dotted around the length and bredth of the route between Montagu and Barrydale. Some are grouped together others are quite isolated. Some are kept immaculately others are definitely not. There is a high incidence of alcohol misuse in this area and this is what many of the children seem to face when they return home from school.

The Net Vir Pret youth worker, Peter, is working with most of these children and young people both during the week and in the school holidays. His creative arts work augments the daily teaching and keeps the children occupied and interested during the holidays. I hope to visit the schools with Peter so I can see him in action and report back.

Net Vir Pret management committee met at 5pm last night. There were 11 people at the meeting including Ann Brown and me representing EDSA. I was very impressed with the commitment - from a local social worker, business man, voluntary drugs worker, young volunteer reps, a headtacher from one of the Farm Schools and others from the community. The need for the work to be sustainable was high on the agenda. We discussed the ongoing funding needs and the Net Vir pret staffing structure and accommodation.

I came away with a much better understanding of how the project will develop and how EDSA can assist. Another meeting has been set to look at job descriptions and we will be able to support them in putting these together. This was familiar territory for me and not unlike the myriad of management committee meetings I attended during my time as a Youth and Community work officer in the UK. Lots of enthusiasm, lots of committment and lots of work to be done!

1 Feb 2007

I have just returned from spending time with Peter in a small Farm School about 10 miles out of Montagu. The age range of the young people in his group was wide, about 6 - 14 years. There was a local funeral which had called away some young people and the headteacher so there was just one teacher and Peter today. Peter was working on counting and some of them were inevitably not able to do this very well, others certainly had the basics. It was clear that some of the girls were used to handling money and probably did the shopping sometimes. Many of the children seemed tired and were very poorly dressed with bare feet.

Again Peter was using the djembi drums both to draw the youngsters into a circle as well as to make the lesson less formal and more interactive. They were having fun in between questions and answers, drumming away. Peter then changed direction in a later group and made figures out of corn husks with the children. He stressed to me the importance of using any materials which were to hand as they have very few other resources. I was impressed at how intensely the children watched him and then got down to making their own figures - these young people have so very little and are so unsophisticated (no electronic toys at all - in fact NO toys!!) that they really enjoyed the chance to make something for themselves. They used odd bits of wool and cotton to wrap around the husks to dress the figures. Some found some glass beads to use for eyes. Another small group were learning how to make paper. Peter was shown how to do this a few days ago and was quickly introducing it to the children. They had no clever tools at all, they used torn up old newspaper and added a few bits of coloured paper to the water to form the gooey mass which they then pressed into a simple frame. Colourful pieces of reconstituted paper were drying in the sun as I left the school.

We played outside - name games with a ball formed from paper and tape - I saw 3 small balls being used but they were also being closely guarded by the little boys who had them! The lack of outdoor equipment and indeed a reasonable outdoor play area is not helpful. The ground outside of the school is barren and down to the bed rock -it is rough and gravelly and would hurt badly if a child fell on it. They do of course scamper around out there but oh for a bit of lawn, tarmac or concrete. These children desperately need a place to play games!

I have many photos but don't seem to be able to download them onto this blog! Sorry as they would really bring it to life for you - I will keep trying. Yet again the beauty of the surrounding mountains really struck me as I drove back to Montagu. Many of the children I saw were thin and undernourished - many had no food with them to eat at their break and lunch (there is however a government feeding scheme 3 times per week - however I have not yet seen this in action) they live impoverished lives in small homes often miles away from the school.

I am preparing a list of simple games which would be useful - I guess if every child had a ball and a skipping rope it may be a start!

Off to Barrydale again today to look at some possible future accommodation for net Vir Pret Children and Young People's centre - wouldn't that be exciting? The tomorrow off to Cape Town and I will be working alongside derek Joubert doing some admin work at the Khayalisha Saturday School. Should be fun.

5 Feb 2007

Still hot, hot hot - occasionally it clouds over and feels as if there may be a storm but this never materialises in Montagu, where we are staying. It did however rain - warm rain! in barrydale which is higher in the mountains and gets more cloud cover. I have been spending some time with the Net Vir Pret staff in barrydale - looking at job descriptions, forward planning, contracts of employment etc. All the boring but necessary stuff. Going through JD's has been useful as has working with them on the planning document. It suddenly becomes clear that Net Vir Pret is doing so many different things and working with so many disadvantaged children.

Ann, Gary and I met up with Dutch representatives of another  ngo which is also funding Net Vir Pret. We were really pleased that we seem to have the same philosophy and that we can clearly collaborate on finding funds to keep Net Vir Pret going and to encourage its development.

We had time to do some sight seeing beyond Barrydale which included going to some fantastic hot springs high up in the mountains of the Overberg. This country is just so beautiful. On the way we pased a Buddhist Stupa - placed as part of a world Peace Project but looking very incongruous miles from "not a lot" in the South African bush!

Forgot to say (for the cyclists amongst you) that we drove along several parts of the proposed cycle ride route. The one thing which is without doubt is that it must be one of the most beautiful and interesting routes ever - often surrounded by mountains on all sides whilst riding in the valley, with vineyards on either side. The Tradoux pass is not a piece of cake however - the really uphill part goes on for just 3 kilometers - there is a lot more downhill, promise! Do bring suntan cream and good sunglasses with you! Gary is throroughly enjoying his early morning rides and has found it good going - the roads are not too busy and there is often a cycle track (inside lane) on the bigger roads. It will be challenging but also very exilerating. Promise!

The Net Vir Pret children are planning a small concert on Sunday afternoon to give you a flavour of what they get up to and I am hoping to arrange a very quick trip to a Farm School on Monday morning so you can appreciate this aspect more.

10 Feb 2007 from Cape Town

Arrived in this beautiful city yesterday - in the rain. The famous Table Mountain was nowhere to be seen and it felt more like the UK than Africa. Luckily our B&B were able to lend us umbrellas. So from hot, hot, hot to rain, rain, rain! Contacted Derek Joubert from ASSET who picked us up at 6.45am this morning! Yes, a really early start to our day so that we could collect other people and get out to the township ready for Saturday School. This year (as always) their are 2 venues for the Saturday Schools - Langa and Khayalisha Townships. We went to Langa today - at 7.30 am as we arrived there was a queue of young people snaking down the road leading into the St Francis School where the School is held. Amazing - to see hundreds of youngsters all heading on foot in that direction and so early on a Saturday morning.

These are the lucky ones who have gained a place at the School and already signed on. Today they were collecting their timetable, ID card and their stationary pack. Gary and I were set to work on the laminator with 2 bursary students who were both ex Saturday schoolers - back to help with the process. This laminator certainly became hot - we had a well oiled system by the time we had finished giving more than 800 young people their laminated ID card for which they had given us a suitable photo. Their card also had a small individual timetable on the back of it to ensure each student knew which class they were enrolled in, which room it was in and at what time. Derek does an amazing timetabling job - the bain of all Headteachers lives!

We worked non stop until about 1.15pm when the queue suddenly dwindled and we were finished. Only 1 student forgot his photo (or failed to have the money to pay for it as an enterprising young man stood at the gates offering a photo service if required!) We had such fun and were really overwhelmed by the keeness of all these young people who are desperate to join the Saturday School. The whole process was being replicated in a school in Khayalisha with even more youngsters.

The young student working alongside me said that the Saturday School had been very very important to her - hence her return to help out! Fatima is now a 3rd year student of Financial and Information Systems at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She wants to be an auditor and seems very determined.  She told me that "The Saturday School in 2003 made all the difference to me and without it I would not have gained my marks to get into University!" This is what it is all about!

23 -25 Feb 2007 from Montagu

Hi, to my regular blog viewers and anyone else and apologies for the lack of input recently. I intend to make up for it today and apologise in advance if this seems more like an essay than a blog but there’s lots to say……

My first excuse for being off line is that I went away with Ann for a few days to the coast, a wonderful village called Arniston which is directly south of Montagu and is right next to the famous Cape Argolus which is the southern most tip of Africa and where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet or rather clash and crash big time!!. The seas around the Cape are renowned for bad weather and for the number of ship wrecks and indeed there is a famous one off Arniston where over 300 lives were lost, mainly wounded soldiers returning from war – talk about bad luck!!

My luck was certainly in however to be spending 3 days in this most beautiful spot. The village consist of one hotel, several B&Bs and many very tasteful holiday homes for those lucky Cape Towners who found this spot years ago when prices were really low. The original fishing village is also extremely picturesque and is now a conservation area and houses the local coloured community in solid white cottages, many with thatches made from strong long grass which seems abundant many appearing to have large fire places and bread ovens still in use. There is still a tradition of fishing and the small boats are safely hauled out of the water daily and launched by an ingenious tractor which combines pulling then pushing them into the sea. It was good to meet several enterprising people living in the Fisherman’s cottages who are getting involved in the tourist boom which must be increasing daily in such a fantastic spot. We visited a local tea room overlooking a spectacular beach and sat around tables made from old cable drums having tea. Local crafts were on sale in at least two of these cottages including paintings by young people and pickled onions – Gary’s favourite. We spoke to some of the local coloured community who clearly love living in this wonderful spot.

The best kept secret of Arniston however must be the local fish shop. A caravan known as “The Cave” is parked inside the small harbour right next to the large slab on which fish are cleaned and gutted as they are landed. The only way of knowing that this vehicle is special is from the bright painting on its side of the wonderful view which is right there in front of you plus a very small sign announcing that fish and chips are for sale. These are not just any old fish and chips but must be the freshest and best I have ever tasted (and I grew up on fish and chips!) The fried calamari is just the most tender and delicious ever and where else can you buy yellow tail either fried for you or to take away and cook yourself? We bought a huge fillet for R60 (£4.50) which would have delighted any of the classy chefs in the UK. The enterprising young man running this business also hails from the Arniston fishing village and good luck to him, he has a superb business!

There is a choice of beaches – rocky with wonderful pools, where I saw a very large octopus and a number of crabs; sandy with fantastic surf crashing in for those wanting to ride the waves; a further sandy beach near to the hotel which was great for swimming until I saw the biggest jelly fish ever, forcing me to scurry back to the safety of the rock pools and my friendly octopus, who had no interest in me at all! However the biggest and best beach was almost exclusively frequented by the local coloured community and seemed to be the main area for their line fishing. We walked for miles along this beach without seeing any other foot prints and it occurred to me what a great beach this would be for the Net Vir Pret young people, the sea is shallow and safe and the sand is white and beautiful and firm enough to make sand castles. Surely everyone should have the chance to swim in the sea and to make sand castles in their childhood.

NVP has taken some of the youngsters to the seaside but not all of them and not to this magical place called Arniston.

The magic was so great that I persuaded Gary to leave his work for one day and join us there. He was also captivated and we decided that whilst there we must see the tip of Africa and witness what happens when two Oceans meet. Well as expected – it is rough and windy and impressive along the shoreline. Inevitably there are numerous “most southernmost of Africa” dotted along the way – garage, café, hotel, restaurant etc. However commercialisation has not yet reached the level of Lands End in the UK!

Our drive back to Montagu was also interesting. Wide open prairie type landscape with huge fields with tiny sheep and cows dotted in the distance blending into the dusty brown landscape. Then we saw something different, not cows surely with this wonderful slash of white and delicate features and long horns – no, wow, springboks – straight off the SA rugby shirts and into the field in front of us! So shy that they had disappeared by the time I had my camera out. Next we saw strange large birds in a field on our left.  We ground to a halt and watched fascinated whilst they suddenly raised their huge wings and seemed to dance around each other. I got several good shots of the birds which helped me in my search in the trusty Birds of South Africa book where I quickly recognised the blue crane – well known to locals no doubt but a rarity for us and such a privilege to see them doing their courting dance! The landscape changed as we got nearer to Montagu and the large and spectacular mountains reappeared with the sun slowly setting behind them in a golden hew – the coutryside here never ceases to take my breath away. Our cyclists are going to have the most fantastic views which I hope will make up for all the ffort they will have to put in!

We arrived back and I was ready to blog again when disaster struck for Gary, his bike broke down! He is in training for the 50 mile per day charity bike ride which will begin on 5th March – so he needed some quick running repairs to the clonking pedals. Gary also has a very busy writing schedule to complete before the ride and so could not afford any more time off so I set off to our nearest larger town - Robertson, to try and find a bike repair shop. Robertson is a small country town which serves the local farmers and their farm workers and is heaving on Saturday in the midday heat. However I eventually managed to find a small shop and to persuade a young man who looked about 16 years old, to find me the part and to repair the bike – he did and I was duly grateful! So I am pleased to say Gary was back on course for his training however I had missed the moment for the internet café and my blog!

Now I had to go into Smitsville to see Peter and the team as promised. This meant leaving Montagu early to miss the full heat and for the next 5 days I went up and down the R62 to the Net Vir Pret project, not returning until well after the internet café was closed, so excuse number three for my missing blog – overwork, honest!

My trips to Smitsville however have been superb. I was able to ferry Peter and Landi and 10 djembi drums of varying sizes to a Farm School called Akkerboom, which is a 55 km round trip from their school base in Barrydale. I was happy to help but it really highlighted for me the transport problem which Peter has. He is working in five Farm Schools along the R62 as well as in the BF Oosthuizen School in Smitsville where Net Vir Pret is based. His furthest school is a 75 km round trip and he often has to remain at the school all day in order to get a lift there and back, wasting his time and meaning other children miss out. A week of holiday school activities is based at one of each of the schools during the year and this can cause major logistical problems.

Net Vir Pret needs a car so that staff and materials (especially the drums and the marimbas) can be transported and it will also enable them to buy cheaper and more interesting materials by being able to visit larger towns to do the buying. Net vit Pret will need around R40000 (£3000 approx) to buy a second-hand vehicle. Another thing for our list.

If you are getting confused by the Barrydale/Smitsville references it is confusing – Barrydale is a small but growing village which suddenly looms up amongst the mountains of the R62, it is fairly remote and this has attracted a number of old and new residents who value this remoteness. It consists of many stylish older houses built in the Afrikaans style as well as a number of superb architect designed modern residences, some of which are specifically built to be eco friendly. They are fairly spread out and most appear to have land attached to them – these house the local Afrikaans white community and a growing white population of incomers who love the scenery, the peace and tranquility of Barrydale. Some are long term residents, some live in Barrydale during the hot summer months and elsewhere in the winter – which can be cold and even frosty. There are a number of businesses owned by this community including hotels, B&B’s, craft shops, restaurants, cafes, many of which are ranged along the R62 which runs through the top of Barrydale and is a tourist route alternative to the well known “Garden Route”.

Smitsville is in the same area and shares the same facilities, shops etc but is literally “behind the hill”. It is the township for the coloured community, many of whom are pickers and packers on the local farms or work in the shops, businesses or homes of the Barrydale community. They mainly live in small houses which seem to have 2 rooms in total. New houses are also being built in Smitsville but they are still very small and rather close together and certainly without any grassy areas or tree lined avenues. The residents of Smitsville have the daily grind of climbing up and down the steep hill to get to school, work, shops and other facilities. There is a clinic next to the primary School, which mainly services the Smitsville inhabitants.

Vineyards, peach trees, pear and apple trees and others line the R62 and dotted about on these estates are the small farm labourer houses and the schools for the children of the estate workers. The Farm School land and building is owned by the farmer on whose land it stands whilst the Government fund the teachers and books. A feeding scheme run by the Peninsular, has been in place for some years and children are given basic food three times per week in term times.

The work Peter is doing in these Farm Schools is fantastic. There are usually 2 permanent staff per school who struggle to deliver the curriculum to children, some of whom are living in poverty conditions. Use of the arts is a methodology which I know is a very positive influence, from my work in the UK with arts based projects such as the Oxfordshire Multi Arts Project; Reaching the Parts and general arts work within the large Oxfordshire County Council Youth Service and the Oxfordshire Youth Arts Project. It has been shown to have a major impact on children and young people’s lives – through building confidence, allowing them to express their creativity and so develop their own ideas and become better able to make choices as well as allowing them to have some fun.

I watched Peter weave his spell on groups of around 9 children at a time in Akkerboom which has around 38 children from 5 years to 14 years old. First he asked them to follow his simple drumming and clapping rhythms then to answer his drum beats followed by more complicated patterns. Peter wanted to see how they responded to different sounds on his drum, such as pattering rain or very, very quiet beats, and he asked children to imitate these thus improving their listening skills as well as their confidence. Their attention was kept and if it wandered then Peter noticed the individual and drew them in with eye contact and by showing them a rhythm to follow, all done without breaking from the rest of the group and with no chastisement, no raised voices, he just showed total respect for the children who responded in kind. In some groups Peter practised language skills, both in Afrikaans and in their second language of English. He put objects into the middle of the circle and the name was repeated and then each child pointed to or picked up an object or combination of objects and said its name. When each child had succeeded the whole group gave them a drum role. These exercises were repeated using numbers, picking out colours and shapes and in other ingenious ways of supporting their learning. The children were fully engaged and the very shy ones came alive and began to participate. The more exuberant were able to express this through their drumming and by their involvement. Peter was noticing the children who were not adept in the basic skills and is constantly devising new exercises to support them. Through these school visits Peter gets to know all of the isolated farm children who can then attend the holiday schools. Again transport between schools is important for children as well as for Peter and the team.

Each group was different however. In Akkerboom two tiny children aged about 2 and 3 years old followed us into the classroom and decided to stay for all the group lessons of the day! Peter integrated them into the groups and they joined in as much as they could, in fact by the end the 2 year old was drumming on a very small drum to his hearts content whilst his brother used a tambourine. The other children just accepted them and took care of them.

The children from Akkerboom do not have a school uniform and some of them were very poorly clad and had no shoes. On the other hand there were some in good strong school shoes with socks and neat clothing. Many of the children were really small for their age and there were some 14 year olds who looked no older than 8 years old. I asked them what their favourite sport was – cricket, netball, athletics and rugby. I was surprised given that the only bit of flat ground was very gravely and seemed extremely unfit to play games on. They assured me that they do play games here although there had been accidents in the recent past, including a broken arm from rugby practice! Oh for a small grass playing field, some good quality tarmac or a concrete school playground!! There was nothing in the way of play equipment for the children and in my minds eye I have already imagined climbing frames etc. Who knows?

I am off to visit the project again tomorrow and we will have another committee meeting when finances will be high on the agenda. I will report back again.

3 Mar 2007 from Cape Town

The cyclists are in the air, that is the good news. The bad news is that it is raining and cold in Cape Town! One of those amazing changes in weather which happen here - one minute sunshine and then suddenly it is cold, wet and miserable. Lets hope it clears for their arrival tomorrow at 6.30 am.

We will all meet up at the air port and the cyclists will be whisked away to Barrydale ready for their first day of the big bike ride tomorrow! Glad to say they will all have a great Team EDSA - UK t-shirt and also a great welcome awaits them from the children from Net Vir Pret who have also made them some surprises over the last few weeks.

Earlier today, Gary and I visited Khayalisha township to see the Saturday School and meet with some of the teachers, support staff and students. Again, as in the Langa Saturday School, there were hundreds of keen young people all desperate to do extra studies in order to help them with their matriculation. In fact there was again a queue of disgruntled young people who were unable to have a place this year and were still waiting for any drop outs so they could step in and take their place.

We also went around a small part of the township and saw again the poor conditions which many of the youngsters live in. There are still mile upon mile, row upon row of flimsy shacks built higgledy piggledy upon the sand. Many with no electricity, water or sanitation. In contrast there are more and more of the 2nd generation concrete houses being built - bigger and more substantial than the first generation model - many of which seem to be disintegrating after five years. Our guide told us proudly that he now had an inside toilet - but no shower or even a sink - he still bathes in a tin bath. There are still stand pipes for water which service a number of houses. The problem of housing is immense and seems to be growing rather than diminishing. Families are still coming into Khayalisha from the Eastern Cape and other places in hope of work - there is little available in rural areas. The transformation programme will inevitably be very slow. Our cyclists will be taken to see the Saturday Schools in action - they will be impressed, that is for sure!

4 - 6 Mar 2007 from Montagu

They are on their way!! Everyone arrived safe and sound after a long and tiring journey, but all in good spirits. Gary met them at the airport with Day Tripper with a minibus and trailer (containing 20+ bikes) and a landrover with a luggage trailer. We drove in convoy up to Barrydale to settle into the famous Barrydale Hotel (very highly recommended!!) the biggest disappointment was the weather. We just could not believe how sunshine could suddenly turn into sucha cold wet and mieserable scenario - it was just like being in the UK!! Anyway everyone laughed it off even when the locals were blaming the Brits for the weather!

Sunday afternoon the rider all met the children from Net Vir Pret at the local school hall - they had their drums and shakers with them and played their little hearts out - as did the riders - we have wonderful footage of everyone singing and playing! Peter Takelo, the Youth and Community worker, was magnificent and he explained his involvement to the riders - he is really an inspiration and everyone seemed very impressed. It was very moving when the children presented flowers made from recycled plstic bottles to each of the riders - to put onto their bikes, as well as hand made penants with net Vir Pret on. Everyone had their new EDSA/Pedalling for Progress T shirt on as well and it seemed like a very good start to the event. if only the weather would brighten up too.

Monday morning began with light rain which quickly turned into torrents! The low cloud meant we could not see the tops of the mountains and the thought that they would be up there riding over the Tradouw Pass on the first day filled me with trepidition, but all the riders seemed to be very happy and raring to go.

They visited a small Farm School before starting the day - again a humbling experience to be with children with so little who were entertaining us with - gues what - The Wheels on the Buss - and of course we all joined in. The Haedteacher joanna, does a great job with not a lot! We happily left behind some of the enormous amounts of pensils and other goodies brought over by the cyclists - there is loads left to go to the other Farm schools in the area.

The cycling then began and after some brake and saddle adjustments and the adtional layers of clothing which were suddenly needed - off they went.

Dave Lock, star of so many events, forgot his helmet and cycling shoes - oh dear! Day Trippers helped him out and so everything was OK. Day Trippers are certainly doing a splendid job, they brief everyone careflly before any riding, they check and double check bikes, they are calm and efficient and not bad looking either!

We met up with the riders after they had gone over the dreaded Pass - some said it was a breeze - others said slowly but surely (Jill) but everyone did it and enjoyed it in spite of the steady drizzle. The off road part was a bit difficlut as the rain had caused the ground to get skiddy in parts and there were big pot holes, lots of loose gravel etc. Not so good but not so bad.

The day ended in Swellendam - there were 7 punctures (not surprising on that surface) all dealt with very easily - although Clare was wondering why she had twice her share of the problems (2 punctures!) There was one broken chain for Mr Gundry - looking very fit in his lycra!

The star of the event on the first day was Rolo - he did a wonderful skid and promptly fell off as he left the tarmac of the Pass and went onto the gravel - he picked himself up and dusted himself down - got back on and was hardly to be seen for dust! Rolo is fine and enjoying every minute of it! Laura, our other young cyclist, is amazing - up there at the front like a little whippet - loving it all and not bothering one second about the rain - I guess they are all used to riding in the rain. They all enjoyed the al fresco lunch again fabulously provided by Day Trippers. Our freidns from Cycle Wild were up there in the Landrover (Paul had the first stint) and at the rear, encouraging and supporting those at the back.

Jill is doing amazingly well and Martin is struggling to keep up with her! Dave and Gary are riding together for some of the time and seem to be really enjoying it - David B has been up near the front and Philip B has been seen helping with the rear guard action when he was sorting out a punctured tyre with his friend Peter.

Next stage is from Swellendam to Robertson. We will have more news and rest assured there are loads of pictures (so sorry I cannot put them onto this blog but you'll get to see them later!)

6 Mar 2007

Day 2 of the Pedalling for Power Charity Bike ride! Swellendam to Robertson via Bonnievale.

Thank goodness the rain had stopped, the wind died down and the sun was actually out! The riders spent the night in the Swellengrebel Hotel in Swellendam and they were apparently so full of beans after day one that they were all in bed by 9.30pm – well with a few exceptions who had a late nightcap. The hotel has a washing service, a swimming pool and a sauna – so virtually all their needs were seen to, apart of course to those of Pete Carson who was in the room next to the busy tumble drier and he was not a happy bunny! Poor Pete has been having a bit of a tough time not only was his tyre destroyed on day one and he needed a new one to carry on (all fixed up admirably by Alan from Day Trippers) but he also then lost his ongoing chess match to Steve Adler – who was extremely delighted to be able to tell me about this. Then Laura also reported that garrulous Pete had had to humbly apologise to her about being able to overtake her (Laura is 14 years old, as slim as his finger and had a bad back at the time!). She is fully recovered and was last seen riding side by side with him swopping yarns……talk about little and large! (Pete is about 6 feet five tall and could have been a rugby second row if he wanted!)

Day 2 was a stunning ride from Swellendam to Robertson via Bonnievale, through the Breede River Valley with some great vineyards along the roadside. I met up with the group as they arrived for a very good lunch in the Bonnievale Farm Shop. Laura told me that one of the highlights of the mornings ride was eating her banana as this signalled that she had reached the top of one of the big hills whilst Jane (her mum) loved the stretch up to Bonnievale which went past small homesteads and she was able to see how ordinary life was going on around her. Jane and Laura agreed that the hills are hard and the down hills could be a bit scary as they had been rather slippy after the rain slippy – Jane decided that her preference was slightly uphill or slightly downhill with the accent on the slightly. Day 2 pm would be just fine for Jane.

Wendy and Simon Gundry have been finding the scenery just awesome. Steve Adler agreed using the term spectacular and said his main comment was “are we there yet?” Apparently his family will know just why he has said this!

Philip Brody told me that he has done seven charity rides and so far this is the best! He is one of the team of brothers on the ride and David is also having a whale of a time. Thank goodness as he was one of the people who came up with this idea (the other was Richard Pantlin who was unable to come because he has just become a father for the second time – many congratulations to him from all at EDSA).

Several people have commented on the team spirit and the way everyone is looking after each other and urging each other on if they seem to be flagging. Dave Lock told me that he was suddenly spurred into action by the sight of his older brother, Gary riding past at a great pace and shouting rude comments to him about age and status! He tells me he overtook him immediately. He also says hi to Danni and Nicki who are apparently following the blog (well at least someone is!!).

Just to let readers know that this is not all about hard work and effort, the group stopped at the famous Van Louveran Winery, where a tasting session was held and enjoyed by one and all. Several purchases of wine were secreted into the back up vehicles!

Everyone then wended their way in an almost straight line, into Robertson and their hotel – The Grand! I later received a text from Gary to say that they had all had a magnificent river boat meal. Lucky them.

7 Mar 2007

Day three of the bike ride. Robertson to Goudini Spa.

I have not been able to visit the riders today and I am awaiting details by text from Laura, who seems to be the only one capable of using this communication method in anything like a reasonably fast way! I have heard from Paul (CycleWild back up team) that there have been several punctures today. Also that the lunch stop was near a reservoir so everyone decided to have an impromptu swim. They have also taken a detour route around a lake after permission was granted from the land owner… sounds like fun. Early this morning the weather seemed overcast although no rain. Ideal for cycling, however as the day has passed it has got hotter and hotter and there is a clear blue sky. Definitely suntan cream weather. Some of the cyclists must be getting a bit tired but I will find out more later, I do know that Goudini Spa has natural warm springs where they can soak tired muscles, that must be an incentive.

8 Mar 2007

Day 4 of the bike ride. Goudini Spa to Wellington via Bainskloof Pass.

I have not been able to visit the riders en route today so I am relying on text mesages from Gary and from Laura. The first to arrive from Gary said On top of Bainskloof but it was a bit of a bugga! Well it has been really hot today and apparently it is a 15 km gradient to the top of the pass - sounds hard to me too.

The next text was from Laura and was impressions from yesterday as well as information about todays ride. Things to note were Patrick's underwear whilst swimming in the river!, Yesterdays fantastic lunch (no more details!). At Goudini Spa (the overnight stop) there was a flume which Laura and Rolo loved but all the adults found terrifying and when they were eventually persuaded to down their faces were a real sight (One shudders to imagine how they were persuaded!) The weather was superb yesterday and after a mega hill the downhill was beautiful.

Ostriches and zebras were spotted yesterday!

From today: Wendy's tyre popped dramatically - we have to assume that it was duly repaired as she is still on her way. Laura again saying (in a very ladylike way) we have just managed an uphill mountain pass 15k long with a gorge on the left hand side (sounds scary!) and Clare has had 5 punctures (sounds even scarier), but wait for this: A car lost its tyre whilst Jez was cycling past - quote of the day from Clare who was riding behind Jez no car can overtake me without losing its wheel.

Laura reports that at the top of Bains Kloof Tony almost fell off in his enthusiasm to greet the other victorious riders who were already there. Well done Tony!! The views are amazing and Jill has told everyone (and now it is in the blog too) that I am going to cycle to work in the future.

Another quote of the day, this time from Rolo when asked for a blog contribution by Laura I don't contribute, that's my aim in life. That's from someone who is spending his own time raising funding for the children here in SA and doing this magnificent but taxing ride. We don't believe you Rolo.

Heard from manu from the top of the Pass and she said that everyone was doing just great. Poor Dave L has gone down with flu and is recuperating in the hotel. he hopes to be fit to join in a little later. Get well soon!

Congratulations everyone for your amazing effort so far. The final push tomorrow for Cape Town and that great view of Table Mountain. Thanks to Laura for her fast feedback via text!

Thu 8 - Fri 9 Mar 2007

Days 4 and 5 on the road for the Charity cycle ride for EDSA sponsored projects in South Africa.

As before the 20 participants are now down to 19 because Dave Lock has a bad dose of flu and a chest infection. He is being taken from hotel to hotel by Day Trippers and is pretty fed up as you can imagine. He is however keeping up with the progress of the others and spurring them on when he can.

The stay over on Day 3 was in Goudini Spa, with hot springs collected into a series of swimming pools all “so hot it was like getting into a hot bath” – good for the aching limbs at the end of a long day. The highlight here for some of the participants – mainly Laura and Rolo, was the amazing flume. This was very high, very long and as Laura said yesterday, not to the liking of many of the adults on the trip – apparently the other highlight was “big” Pete flying down at a great rate to disappear entirely in the pool at the bottom.

Day 4 (as previously stated) started off from Goudini Spa along a beautiful valley with vineyards all the way. Everyone regrouped at the bottom of Bains Kloof Pass with the weather getting hotter all the time. The briefing was given but everyone could see the pass snaking up ahead and so was rather worried about it. The backup vehicle (with Alan our fantastic mechanic who is a whiz at repairing any bicycle problem!) could not go over the pass and was to meet the group at the top via another route. Everyone set off on the long 15K uphill haul but with the most fantastic views – everyone managed it with some huffing and puffing and gathered at the view point at the top for a picnic lunch provided by the wonderful Manu, part of the Day Tripper team. Everyone was on a high with a great sense of achievement as it had been a gruelling climb for some. The best thing about arriving for lunch was to have a cup of tea which Manu prepared in large flasks. (Apparently a very English thing according to Manu who said that she always used far more tea bags if she was working with any English group!)

Then came the downhill – long and with horse shoe bends, not easy to judge and Rolo took his second tumble. He had been slip streaming Wendy on the way down and suddenly got a bit close to the inside edge which was loose gravel, he lost balance and was over in a moment. In true Rolo fashion he gets up dusts himself down, and after some slight first aid and off he goes! Wendy was more upset than he was and needed a quick cuddle from Simon (any excuse!). Rolo is an amazing youngster who has been such a great sport and shown true grit and determination on this trip.

The rest of the ride was uneventful as the group rode through Wellington to their accommodation at Diemersfontain Wine and Country estate where the riders stayed in chalets in the gardens. Dave took a turn for the worse and was ferried to the Drs. whilst everyone else had a great and well deserved evening meal.

The group were joined at 7am for breakfast by Derek Joubert the Director of ASSET who said a few words about the work of this South African not for profit organisation (npo) which is supported by EDSA. This was to be an early start in the hope of reaching Cape Town before the Friday rush hour.

The weather had been getting hotter and hotter during the five days of the ride, after a cold and wet start. Today, the last day of this stage of the charity ride, was going to be the hottest day so far. The route was fairly flat with quite a lot of off road with the first sighting of Table Mountain coming at about 25k, very exciting. More excitement was that the top riders for the Argus Cycle ride, to be held on Sunday March 11th, appeared on our route. A circuit had been organised for these elite riders to have a practice ride and for them to be seen by the press who were out in abundance lining the roads. As our planned route was along some of the same roads we were forced to wait for this session to end before we could go. The speed of these riders was phenomenal, about 100 of them sped past following motor cycle outriders and police cars, they rode so closely together that it seemed incredible no one was touching wheels with anyone else, they were followed by a convoy of back up vehicles. These cyclists were doing laps of 25K and so as soon as they had gone through one lap one we quickly rode off after them to follow our own route before they reappeared. The press guys were rather amazed when this rather mixed bunch of cyclists, complete with plastic flowers on handlebars, green “Pedalling for Progress” t-shirts, cycled past at a slightly more leisurely pace than the elite riders!

Just to add that Wendy Gundry was passed by one of these elite riders a bit later as she was going uphill, he put his hand onto her back pack and she suddenly found herself sailing up the hill with great ease! This mysterious guy said he would give her a push during the Argus if he saw her!!

The last 20K was through the outskirts of Cape Town with the weather getting hotter and hotter and the road getting busier and busier. This was the most uncomfortable part of the ride for everyone and seemed to go on for ever. There was just no shade and having lorries and cars roaring past belching out fumes was just too much like cycling in the rush hour in the UK – not to be recommended. We had several needed drink stops when we all regrouped ready for the next part of the home straight. “Ipod Martin” was flying along listening to some good music and totally failed to see a dozen other riders waving him down and shouting for him to stop for a drink break. Must have been good music!! (We do not recommend cycling to music but Martin is very experienced and insists that this is the only way to ride for him!). Everyone eventually arrived at the finishing point, Table View Bay which has a magnificent view of Table Mountain and a wonderful sandy beach. Most people were quick to cool off in the Atlantic Ocean – which is quite something as even at this time of the year the water is still really cold. The overheating was soon cured anyway. As ever Manu was there quickly setting up a late lunch stop under a gazebo which was really appreciated by everyone. In fact the whole group were at the Beach by around 2.30 pm, quite something – no wonder they were all so hot and tired as they had done the last part of the ride in record time. It was great to witness the sheer delight and sense of achievement of the riders, some of whom were now having a day off and then taking part in the famous Argus cycle ride – 108K around the Cape Peninsular!

Before anyone thought any more about this we were all looking forward to the grand celebration dinner. At 7pm we were ferried to the Waterfront in our best bibs and tuckers and had a great evening in a local restaurant. This was a time for going back over the adventures which had taken place in the last 5 days (wow, it seemed more like 5 weeks to me!) and to talk over the highlights, the funny bits, the near disasters (thankfully there were no disasters). There were lots of thanks, in particular to Alan and Manu from Day Trippers in South Afriuca who had looked after the technical side so well, and to Jonathan and Paul from Cycle Wild who had shared in the cycling and the backup and were our UK contacts. Also to Val for the amazing administration role she took on and did so ably. Wendy Gundry gave “awards” to each person which were witty but also hit the nail on the head and there was a very special mention made of the two young people on the team – Rolo Geraets and Laura Bowlby, who seemed to discover a number of amazing coincidences during the week, both play the cello although Rolo admits that he neither has the passion nor the prowess of Laura who is exceptionally talented in this area, they both have brothers and mums who share the same name and of course they both enjoy cycling and have both raised considerable amounts of sponsorship for EDSA whilst doing this bike ride. Both are 14 years old and are great ambassadors for young people.

Saturday 10 Mar 2007

No rest – up early again, this time to go on a visit to Khayalisha to see one of the projects which EDSA supports, in action. We visited one of three Saturday Schools set up and run by ASSET. We were joined by Jacqueline Kneale who has been supporting EDSA for some time whilst living in Cape Town and is a keen cyclist and will wear the EDSA colours for the Argus ride.

Derek Joubert (ASSET Director) accompanied us together with Jennifer and Thelma also from ASSET. The group were given some information by Madoda and a couple of ex Saturday School students. Over 2300 young people are studying at the Saturday Schools at the moment, 1000 of these are based on the Khayalisha Campus at a local secondary school. The young people are all from grades 11 and 12 and they are trying to gain extra help with their school work in maths, sciences, economics, accounting and English, so that they have a better chance of matriculating and so gaining a place in further or higher education. It is well known that those who attend Saturday Schools definitely have more chance of doing this and so there is great demand for the places on offer. The enrolment is on a first come first serve basis and young people walk long distances to get to the schools. Madoda told us that on the day of enrolment there were queues forming from 4 am and over 1000 potential students were turned away.

Students are also aware that they will be able to apply for ASSET bursaries to support them through College or University. Many have to live at home in very crowded and hard conditions as there are not enough hostels to go around. The big Universities in Cape Town draw from across the Country and so hostel places go first to those living the furthest away and not those in Khayalisha in spite of it being at least 15k away. Recent Education Department surveys have shown that there is an 80% pass rate from young people gaining bursaries whilst the average university pass rate is only 40% for Black students.

Group members were able to observe something of a class, and talk to some of the students and to the staff. Indeed Phillip Brody had a great time trying to assist some young women with their English comprehension, much to their enjoyment. Everyone seemed most impressed with the commitment shown and the turn out of the students. Many in the group were visibly moved by what they had seen and were glad to know that some of the bike ride funding would be going to ASSET to further this valuable work. ASSET annual reports were distributed and then we had a quick tour of Khayalisha and back to Cape Town through Guguletu. It was very humbling to see the tin roofed shacks which stretch for mile after mile and which are home to most of the Saturday School students. The hustle and bustle of the townships is amazing with so many things which are new to us and which we do not understand. Jane Harrison was typical when she said a big thanks for the opportunity to meet with and talk to the students and staff and to begin to understand the difficulties they face in order to progress in education, their keeness is amazing.

Sunday 11 Mar 2007

The Argus Ride. This is an enormous cycle ride of over 39000 people. We awoke to a very different Cape Town with cyclists and bicycles as far as the eye could see. About half of our group were enrolled up for this very special event. We all turned out to see them off and it was great to see so many in the green EDSA “Pedalling for Progress” t-shirts. In fact these t-shirts were so distinctive that Jacqueline Kneale, who started in a much later batch managed to make contact with some of her co team riders before the end of the event! Well done Jack. Thankfully our team all came home safe, sound and elated after taking part. For many this was the icing on the cake and of course Rolo was in the thick of it, as ever!

What a fantastic end to the EDSA Charity Cycle ride 2007. The whole event proved to be very challenging, very moving, very exciting, as well as disappointing for poor Dave (who had been practicing for months, had raised a lot of sponsorship funding and then could not ride). Everyone gave it their all and should be extremely proud of themselves. The funds are still coming in and have not been fully counted but at least £30000 has been made for work with children and young people in South Africa. EDSA will be distributing this over the next few months and will be reporting on the web site (and to the riders) where their money will be spent.

Monday 12 Mar 2007

Up early yet again for the last organised trip before most of the bike ride participants return to the UK. We all visited Robben Island, where so many people were incarcerated over so many years, including of course Nelson Mandela. A moving experience to see the quarry where prominent political activists had to pick axe rocks day after day whilst also managing to hold debates and to educate each other. Many say this was the first free Parliament of South Africa, and many parts of the current SA Constitution was originally drafted in this place at that time

The End of a great event. So many thanks from EDSA to those taking part, those supporting us, those sponsoring us. The biggest thanks must go to the children and young people we have met who have allowed us to share in their lives and in their aspirations and to the local workers who are dedicated to continuing in the struggle to help these children and young people to gain a good education and to progress with their lives. We have indeed been privileged to meet you all.

The last word of the blog to Samantha, the young lead djembi drummer from Smitsville township – “cool!!”

Blog written by Judy Brown on behalf of EDSA with input from several riders, especially Laura and Gary.