The Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy – or Velokhaya for short - is a not-for-profit organisation based in Khayelithsha which uses a range of holistic, educationbased cycling programmes to give children from disadvantaged communities in South Africa – such as Khayelitsha - the skills and opportunities they need to make a success of their lives. In other words, we grow champions on and off the bike.
The word Velokhaya is derived from the French word for cycling (velo) and the Xhosa word for home (khaya) – as such, we’re regarded as the ‘home of cycling’ in Khayelitsha.
We currently run two programmes – a road and a BMX cycling programme – and use these to involve township youth in a positive, after-school activity and to supplement their formal education by teaching them important life skills such as discipline, determination, dedication, teamwork and how to win and lose etc.
Currently, approximately one third of South Africa’s population is under the age of 15 and a large percentage of these young people live in areas affected by high levels of poverty and unemployment, which makes them particularly vulnerable to social ills such as crime and substance abuse.
The Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy was founded in 2003 with the intention of using the sport of cycling to help children living in these under-resourced communities, deal with the challenges they face.
As a Khayelitsha-based organisation, we are only too aware of the extent of the challenges faced by our township youth and we know that the skills our children need to deal with these challenges won’t necessarily be those they learn at school.
This is why we decided to implement a range of cycling-based programmes aimed at giving these children access to a more holistic education. We chose sport because it teaches children about resilience in the face of adversity, while giving them the opportunity to become physically and emotionally stronger. Sport also teaches them to strive for excellence, to be gracious in victory and to persevere in defeat.
We chose cycling because it was a sport which township children wanted to participate in and one which, until the formation of the Academy, had excluded a large percentage of SA’s population. We also chose cycling because we wanted to expose township children to a sport that was aspirational, one that would take them out of their immediate environment and bring them into contact with the broader South African community, thereby encouraging social inclusion and allowing them to participate as equal members of society.
While we believe that sport should be an integral part of every child’s education, the reality is that many, if not most, township children do not have access to sporting facilities because their schools have limited or no sporting facilities.
Velokhaya's cycling-based programmes target children from school-going age to those in their early 20s (predominantly children between the ages of 9-18).
Our programmes range from BMX cycling (to encourage mass participation in the sport), to school-based cycle/road safety programmes and a range of competitive programmes (currently sponsored by Pick n Pay) that allow for participation in the sport at national and international level.
For almost a decade, our programmes have successfully shown how increased self-esteem and confidence on the bike helps to inspire and equip young people to deal with the difficulties they face in life and help them achieve their goals, both on and off the bike.