"Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek,"
These words were uttered by US president Barack Obama, in his speech following the Super Tuesday results, Feb 5, 2008 - his words relate very much with the efforts of Australian Mark McNamara, who is on a mission to restore hope in the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
Mark has initiated a new project called Bike Africa, a bicycle journey through Africa raising funds for orphaned and vulnerable children. This year, Mark and cycling mascot Katie Dee, an Australian koala, have cycled through ten countries from Kampala, Uganda to Cape Town, in the good name of raising funds for 'Keep the Dream 196', a non-profit organization in Limpopo that supports vulnerable children to lead better lives.
"My hope is that Bike Africa becomes a cycle of hope for every vulnerable and disadvantaged child in the world. I am privileged to support Keep the Dream 196, who provide care for kids who need a hand. The story of the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children is one we can help them to write with a happier ending, "explains Mark.
Keep the Dream 196 runs several projects, including integrated training, care and support to all children in the area but particularly orphaned and vulnerable children, caregivers, social workers, teachers and Community Based Organisations (CBOs). Some of the training includes communication skills with children, group therapy, developing circles of support, children's rights and responsibilities, scouts, leadership skills and a lot more .
Keep the Dream 196 is also one of 85 organisations chosen nationally as a beneficiary of the Old Mutual Legends Business Development Programme, which supports the team through mentoring, business support and skills training.
Mark embarked on a heroic, 7000 kilometre expedition through the heart of Africa, from Uganda to South Africa, as gesture of solidarity for the disadvantaged children of Keep the Dream 196.
Rafiki Jean De Dieu Uwimana, Team Rwanda's champion cyclist, is but one of many who have joined hands in support of this worthwhile cause. He says that this initiative will encourage the children of Africa to realise their talents and make use of it.
''I would encourage everyone to join in this worthwhile cause, to help the children of Africa, they need to realise that everyone of them is gifted and they can become whatever they want to become in life. I hope this cause will motivate and help them achieve their dreams" explains Rafiki.
Louise Batty, managing director of Keep the Dream 196, concurs with Rafik; she says the project will help the kids to look past their limitations and fears, and also help them realise the possibilities of achieving their goals and dreams, despite their disadvantaged background.
Louise says this initiative will broaden people's minds and hopefully change people's negative attitude towards poverty and how they respond to it.
After a journey of more than 7000 kilometers and ten months, Mark and Katie have reached the Southern coast of Africa at Port Elizabeth. The seaside city marks the point at which Mark and Katie turn west to follow the Garden Route toward Cape Town on the final leg of their African journey.
"We are very much looking forward to the Garden Route stage of the cycle trip as we pass through some of South Africa's most spectacular scenery," said Mark. "We also expect to see a dramatic contrast to the semi-arid landscape of the Karoo, through which we have been travelling recently."
Port Elizabeth provided a brief opportunity for Mark's bicycle to be carefully checked in preparation for the final stage to Cape Town.
Mark and Katie completed their African journey in Cape Town on Sunday November 25, at Green Point Common.
You can also read more about Keep the dream 196 at www.keepthedream196.com