The upliftment of youth in underprivileged communities is not a simple feat; how does one motivate youngsters – who battle poverty, substance abuse and the ever-looming pressures of violence and gang conformation – to aspire to a better life?
For retired maths teacher Pieter Holloway, founder and manager of the McGregor Breede Centre, the answer revealed itself organically. “The local youngsters aren’t struggling with a lack of motivation. They have more than enough enthusiasm and drive, but they need something to be passionate about. From there, the rest falls into place by itself.
Lifestyle mobile app WeChat partnered with the Breede Centre and single track hero Max Menzies to launch yet another Breede Centre initiative: The McGregor Young Warriors project.
“We started with a few bicycles and invited local youth to come participate in cycling lessons; the reception was unbelievable! ” says Menzies. “They are hungry to channel their energy into something productive that yields real results.”
Over the weekend of Friday, 8 to Sunday, 10 September, the nine members of McGregor Young Warriors partook in the annual Ride2Nowhere race, with Wayne Kani coming in a staggering second place on the first day and fourth on the second. Not to be outdone, other Young Warriors secured third and fifth places. The results are definitely showing.
Says Gerjo Hoffman, COO of WeChat: “The thing for me is this… have you ever seen a kid on a bike not smiling? We recognized the merit and endless possibilities this visionary community project holds and wanted to help straight away. We contributed a container – located on the Breede Centre premises – where the kids’ bikes are stored. The kids themselves maintain and service their own bicycles. We trust and hope that this sense of pride will encourage them to pursue healthy dreams and goals, and aspire to more than the seemingly constricted economic and social options society has presented them.”
“What’s also amazing is how big an emphasis they are placing on taking care of themselves,” says Pieter. “All of the young warriors are following nutritious diets and workout routines to be on top of their game.”
Speaking to the Young Warriors before and after each stage of the race, one realises just how much these kids have come to love cycling. Always humble, cracking jokes and smiling from ear to ear, they exude the fruits of the project’s labour, and display boundless enthusiasm and a sense of purpose.
“I like the fact that we all support each other,” Wayne Kani remarks. “We feel like this is our own special thing and, in order for it to work, we have to take care of one another. No one is mean to anyone, or only has their own success in mind; we stay humble and support each other.”
At the race dinner on the first day of the Ride2Nowhere race, MC Paul Valster sings the praises of Holloway and Menzies for the work they have been doing to provide a future for the Young Warriors. “The reality is that unemployment in the Langekloof area for economically challenged communities stands at a staggering fifty percent. And even when people from these communities do find work, their prospects are anything but enticing – more often than not manual farm labour and low wages.
“Teaching these kids how to cycle and entering them into races such as Ride2Nowhere gives them a taste of the life privileged folks are lucky to live. Also, teaching them how to do mechanical work on their bicycles provides them with technical skills – something that will always be in great demand.”
The Breede Centre is involved in numerous projects, including the establishment of a local school, teaching locals how to cultivate their own vegetable gardens and assisting with entrepreneurship projects.
“My dream is to make young people from difficult backgrounds realize that what’s important in life is that you cultivate a desire to push things forward, irrespective of your limitations,” Pieter Holloway says. “With lots of hard work, a dream, and a little encouragement from the right role models, anything and everything is attainable.”