Extreme effort for abused kids

The Xtreme Cycle Team (from left) Colonel Andre Van Rooyen, Colonel Mike Henning. Alan Klette, Dirk Lourens and Marco Calitz
Picture: Supplied

Cyclists cross country with educational message in push against scourge

Three businessmen, two police officials and a hostage survivor have joined hands to take the fight against child abuse across the country – by bicycle.

The cyclists of the annual Xtreme for Kids tour – which stretches over nearly 1 800km from Johannesburg to Cape Town and is organised by charity organisation Matla A Bana – arrived in Graaff-Reinet on Sunday.

Here, Matla A Bana – founded by hostage survivor Monique Strydom in 2002 – visited the Volkskool on Monday to educate children on sexual abuse.

The cycle tour was started in 2013 by three businessmen who decided to raise awareness about this issue – and one of these cyclists is still participating this year.

At the same time, Matla A Bana organisers decided to join the campaign and reach children at schools along the route.

Strydom was part of a group held captive by terrorists in the Philippines in 2000.

“We were kidnapped and held captive, and God gave me a calling to come back and help people. I closed a successful business to start the organisation and it has been incredible.”

The initiative has been well received at schools.

“Last year, the theme of the school sessions was ‘don’t bully’, but this year it is ‘share your secret’,” Strydom – who accompanies the cyclists by car – said.

“It’s not just about awareness and fundraising, but about visiting rural schools and reaching places others might not go.”

Strydom said she hoped to reach about 5 000 children on this year’s tour, with another school visit in Aberdeen yesterday and stops in George and Robertson still on the cards.

“We don’t always know what impact we have, but where we go [on this tour], we speak to children and see how some of them hang their heads.

“The sad thing is that we have to do this job, but the wonderful thing is that we get to make a difference.

“Those children experience trauma and it can end up one of two ways – but if there is help and support, it can [be the better option].”

The organisation also hands out booklets to children on how to handle certain situations.

“[Offenders] are really everywhere and they are getting more sophisticated.

“Where a paedophile might not have committed an offence before, he now has internet access and can reach your child in the safety of their home.”

Colonel Andre van Rooyen, of the police training college in Graaff-Reinet and one of this year’s cyclists, emphasised the need for such programmes.

“I’ve never seen something resonate like that with children,” he said after the Volkskool visit.

“The wonderful thing about Matla A Bana is they help those who can’t help themselves, that’s why it is close to my heart.”

Van Rooyen said the organisation also helped with invaluable police training.

“That is a large part of the work they do. As police we are taught to take statements and how to work with people, but not how to work with children who are scared and unsure and who have been abused.”

The cyclists will travel from Uniondale to Mossel Bay today and will conclude their journey with the Cape Town Cycle Tour on Saturday.

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