Bicycles help kids break free from grip of gangs

Hanover Park Bicycles for Change youngsters with their refurbished bicycles.

Two Hanover Park fathers are fixing bicycles and teaching neighbourhood kids how to ride them to keep them out of trouble and out of gangs.

Norman Allen and Terrence Williams started Hanover Park Bicycles for Change about six months ago, fixing children’s bicycles for free. Later they bought parts from the scrapyard and built two bicycles which they donated to the less fortunate. Two bicycles became 50, and before they knew it they had built about 85 bicycles for the less fortunate.

But they didn’t stop there. Realising that some children didn’t know how to ride bicycles, they taught them and took them on Sunday rides exploring Cape Town.

“We take money from our own pockets to buy parts, and it costs about R100 to completely build a bike,” says Mr Allen. “It’s an easy process to make the bikes as the youngsters that we work with are very hands-on. They know what to do and what to put in place, so it makes it easy. Even if you get a part now, the bike will be fixed by the end of the day.”

The group is made up of girls and boys, ranging in age from 8 to 18.

It’s important for the children to see what is outside Hanover Park, says Mr Allen.

“We usually take them for long-distance cycling, but now we are going around in Hanover Park so that people can see them and know about us.

“I want the youth to see what they can do in the community instead of joining gangs, and I want the gangs to see what we are doing, that they can’t keep ruining our area.

“The youngsters are so proud of this they shout: ‘Hanover Park Bicycles for Change’ when they cycle. They appreciate what we teach them, and we are so happy about what we are doing.”

The group is also going for first-aid training and it has met with traffic officials for advice on cycling safety.

Coordinator Terrence Williams has three sons in the club.

“I grew up in Hanover Park and saw a lot of violence, and I don’t want the kids to see that,” he says. “I want them to see the good out there. Many of them need a lot of training, and discipline, but their moms work with us, and they say they can see a change in their kids because they just talk about us.

“We want them to make something of their lives and not fall into the cycle of gangsterism and violence. The moms are very happy and excited for their children and glad that their children are exploring safely outside of Hanover Park.”

Hanover Park ward councillor Antonio van der Rheede says the project is doing a lot of good in the area.

“It is a great initiative and something that is really needed in Hanover Park. It will break down the cycle of youth joining gangs, and because the boys are from other areas as well, it will influence those communities as well. We want to expand the project by bringing sponsors on board and teaching the children life skills.”