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  • Writer's pictureThe Hub

Qhubeka: Cycling Africa Forward

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Jeremy Ford's #FreeBikeFix = 120 Bikes for Africa

Picture: Qhubeka's Scholar Mobility Programme bicycles make it easier for schoolchildren to get to and from school, helping to improve their attendance and performance. /


What did you do during Lockdown? Write that book? Learn to play an instrument, bake the perfect Nigella-recipe Chocolate Guinness cake, learn Cantonese, or raise millions for the NHS by walking around your garden and being knighted by the Queen? For most of us, staying Covid-free and coping with the isolation will be achievement enough. But if, like Captain Tom, we can fundraise in Lockdown then the benefits may be surprisingly two-way.

The RealBuzz Foundation says charitable fundraising promotes engagement with new people, opens new opportunities, brings renewed motivation and even improves our health.

Harvard University found people who contributed their time or money were “42 per cent more likely to be happy” compared to others. This ‘helper’s high’ can produce endorphins promoting feelings of happiness. Carnegie Mellon University suggests volunteering can promote excellent cardiovascular health, reduce blood pressure and increase lifespan.

YouTube video: Friends - A Selfless Good Deed

Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello says: “Charity is really self-interest masquerading under the form of altruism. … I give myself the pleasure of pleasing others.” Similarly, the Dalai Lama playfully speaks of working to benefit others as “selfish altruism” and of the "Medicine of Altruism" flowing from our understanding of human interdependence. There is even an episode of Friends where Joey challenges Phoebe to think of a selfless good deed.

A Passion for Bikes

Picture: Jeremy Ford in a typically high-octane mountain bike stunt / Credit: Jeremy Ford

Jeremy Ford's charitable activity stems from his boyhood passion for bikes. From BMX japes tearing around rural Devon, he took to mountain biking competitively across Europe through school, university and working life. "Cycling has always been a big thing for me". Literally. In his last race before Lockdown he suffered a bad crash, ending up in Pembury Hospital, Tunbridge Wells with his big toe hanging off! Improbably, there was a toe surgeon specialist on duty at six on a Sunday evening who had it strapped up in minutes. “It was incredible. So I am always grateful to the NHS doing this sport!”

As a London-based head of marketing at a global law firm, Jeremy has long volunteered marketing advice to various charities. His passion for cycle racing drew him to become the European ambassador for Team Africa Rising, a US charity aiming to increase African participation in professional cycling and to unify Africa through cycling. On a 3-month sabbatical from work, Jeremy headed off to Rwanda to assist the national cycling team with its marketing strategy. There he encountered South Africa-based charity Qhubeka distributing bicycles to school children and women's groups in East Africa. "I just fell in love with it and contacted headquarters to ask how I could help such an amazing project?"

Qhubeka: To Progress or Move Forward

Picture: Photomontage from 23 March 2021 when the 460th #FreeBikeFix was completed. / Credit: Jeremy Ford

Qhubeka is an Nguni word (from a group of closely related Bantu languages including Xhosa, Zulu, Swazi and Ndebele spoken by some of the indigenous populations of southern Africa) meaning to progress or to move forward. The charity’s mission is simple, to raise funds to supply bicycles to people in southern Africa and beyond. Secondary school children aged 10 and 11, and women's groups earn bicycles through the charity’s programmes, improving their access to schools, clinics and jobs. In 12 years the charity has distributed an amazing 100,000 bicycles with less than 10% losses, transforming countless lives in the process through the precious gift of time via quicker commutes. A recent development is a partnership with Volkswagen to distribute bikes to health care workers increasing their ability to provide care to hard-to-reach communities.

In 2020, Covid-19 threatened the charity's major European fundraising activities, the London Marathon and its roles as the official charity of London Revolution, a 155-mile, 360° London cycle loop and the Tour de France. Jeremy, now Qhubeka's UK director and trustee, looked at the years of accumulated cycle paraphernalia in his Islington home and decided to offer cycle repairs locally, with recipients directed to Qhubeka's website and donations accepted voluntarily.

Qhubeka: We are in awe of the residents of Islington in North London (UK) for donating over £20,000 after hearing about our charity through #FreeBikeFix. Our UK director and trustee, Jeremy Ford, has fixed up over 480 bikes in his spare time for his neighbours since lockdown began last March. It is good to see so many people get back on their bikes, and then donate to help us get more people on bikes in South Africa. Thanks also to Park Tool and Muc-Off for your support on this campaign! #BikesChangeLives

A #FreeBikeFix post on neighbourhood app Nextdoor brought round a well-known US film director with an old-favourite bike the local repair shop had given up on. Jeremy looked it over and spent two hours bringing it back to life. The film director was delighted, saying he would be able to ride the bike for the first time in 20 years! He asked for the cost of a Qhubeka bike and hearing Euro180 walked off. Later that day Jeremy's GivenGain account pinged with a Euro180 donation. Since then, generously supported by bike tool manufacturer Park Tool and bike lubricants, sprays and apparel manufacturer Muc-Off, Jeremy's Lockdown repairs have raised an incredible £20,000 equalling 120 bicycles for women and children in southern Africa.

How You Can Help Bicycles to Change Lives

YouTube video: 'How Bicycles Change Lives' from Qhubeka's YouTube Channel.

You can hear The Hub's inspirational interview with Jeremy via the audio link below. You can help Qhubeka's goals by subscribing to Qhubeka's YouTube Channel and spreading the word. You can contact Jeremy at for #FreeBikeFix cycle repairs in Islington and, should you wish, you are welcome to make a donation. You can donate to Qhubeka at GivenGain. And, UK tax payers, if you can complete the Gift Aid details, earning the charity an extra 20% from the tax man, that would be greatly appreciated! If you would like an alternative activity to watching Friends reruns* and are inspired to take up your own fundraising activity, The Hub has provided a bespoke playlist below. Including Jerusalema, by Master KG (feat. Nomcebo Zikode), if your group, team or organisation would like to take up the Jerusalema Challenge.

* Not how The Hub spends its evenings...

Audio Interview

The Hub's conversation with Jeremy Ford, UK director and trustee, at Qhubeka, can be heard via the link below.

Qhubeka Cycle Tunes

The Hub has specially curated a Qhubeka Cycle Tunes Spotify playlist in the form of a musical peloton to power you through your fundraising activity. This 6-hour 8-zone peloton musically tells Qhubeka's story and offers a something-for-everyone activity playlist. Suitable if your activity is a half-hour cycle through the woods or your local park, or a more ambitious off road trek into the hills!

Zones: Africa Sounds (Soweto Gospel Choir to Master KG, feat. Nomcebo Zikode), Rock and Pop (Queen to Nazareth), UpBeat (Mark Ronson, The Business Intl to Teelee), Tour de France (Kraftwerk to Joe Dassin), Chill Zone (Nada Sadhana, Kevin Courtney to Agostino Silvestri), Film Score (Edgar Rothermich to Braxton Burks), Nursery Tunes (Bernie Radcliff to Rockaby Baby), Sing Along (Nat King Cole to B.J. Thomas).


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