For some of us, stepping onto a stationary spinning bike in a gym is a daunting experience. Now imagine what it is like to cycle through the mountains and deserts of Africa over a period of four months. An adventure certainly not for the fainthearted!
Steph Barker, whose dad Rhett is one of the Barker brothers (of Barker Insurance Brokers fame) has completed her third year at Yale University, and will be taking a leave of absence for a semester to cycle from Cairo to Cape Town on the Tour d’Afrique to help raise funds for bike charity Qhubeka.
The 16th edition of the Tour d’Afrique is currently under way. This trans-continental expedition takes cyclists from the top of Africa right down to the bottom, covering almost 12 000 km in four months. This is a journey that doesn’t just test the skill and stamina of all the cyclists, but is also a true test of the mind, the body and, of course, the heart. The cyclists journey through 10 countries in all. The adventure begins along the Nile, heads through the Sudanese desert and into the rugged Simian Mountains of Ethiopia. It continues across the Equator into Kenya, cycling past Mount Kilimanjaro, to Lake Malawi, Victoria Falls and along the edge of the Kalahari and Namib Desert en route to the finishing point in Cape Town.
We’re proud to count Barkers as one of our partners. It’s a business that’s built on strong family values. Installing “old school” values and getting to know each client personally has been the cornerstone of Barker Insurance and the business has grown from strength to strength. The Barker team has always been involved in giving back to the community and in so doing, “Barker Unite” was formed to spread love and joy to those less fortunate. On behalf of the Barker Insurance family which include all clients, this team works on numerous projects for people and causes in need of help throughout the year.
A charity that is very close to the Barker hearts, due to many of their staff members spending numerous hours on the saddle, is Qhubeka. Qhubeka is an initiative that empowers people through bicycles and changes lives with bicycles. Most of us tend to take transport for granted: Qhubeka is enabling people and children to earn bicycles through the Qhubeka programme, and so improving their access to schools, clinics and jobs.
We asked Rhett Barker a few questions about the Qhubeka initiative:
Why there is a Qhubeka bike in your office?
If we turn the clock back one generation, my dad, Ken and his brother Rob grew up in Sabie in the Lowveld and their preferred mode of transport was to hop on bicycles and go fishing, exploring and adventuring. I guess this tradition and great sense of adventure has been passed down to the following generations.
My brothers, Brad, Lloyd and I had the privilege of growing up on the fringe of the Johannesburg CBD, where we were free to ride around our neighbourhood and even to school when it was not raining. Once we left school (and all the sport that school had to offer) we got caught by the Cape Argus cycling bug. Between the three of us we have over 60 Argus races under our belts and in recent years we have ridden the Argus on tandem bikes with our children, which has been an absolutely incredible experience.
As a family we have always been drawn to the outdoors and any adventure to get out of town. We have climbed Mt Kilimanjaro together, run the Comrades Marathon, ridden the Cape Epic, run multiple Two Oceans marathons, competed in the Sani2C race, ridden alongside the Tour De Fance a few times and shared many other family holidays and adventures together.
I was introduced to Anthony Fitzhenry, the founder of Qhubeka, by great family friends Doug and Nicci Ryder. With cycling flowing strong in our blood we fell in love with the Qhubeka story, the link to Doug’s professional Dimension Data Cycling Team and the amazing difference they are making to the lives of thousands of people in South Africa and the rest of Africa. Having the Qhubeka Buffalo bike in our office is a daily reminder to our Barker Insurance family and clients that we are in a small way making a difference in the lives of many people in Africa who are less fortunate than ourselves.
Why are sport and family important in business?
Sport and outdoor adventure unifies clients, friends and family and provides balance and harmony to our incredibly stressful business and day-to-day lives.
Is there any benefit to your clients in supporting charities broadly and Qhubeka specifically?
Yes absolutely! The risk with a number of charities is one can often not see where the money goes to and therefore people are more skeptical and hesitant to simply make cash donations. As a business and a family we have preferred to get closer to a handful of handpicked charities where instead of simply handing out hard earned cash we get involved with each organization, understand and feel their passion and actually witness the good that they do. We also like to make our clients feel part of our charity drive however we would always encourage clients get more involved and feel the incredible goodwill that comes from making a real difference in someone’s life.
Growing up in Joburg meant that transportation happened by car, which Steph expresses shaped her way of living. It was however her desire to seek adventure in the unchartered territory that exists between point A and B that led her to get out there and explore the in-between. Not entirely sure of what drew her into cycling, Steph has ventured into the unknown with 12 000 km ahead of her to decipher her interest in incremental distances, cycling and her desire to fill the spaces that exist between point A and B.
“Now, wherever possible, avoid teleporting between A and B. I try to see the in-between. For this, there is nothing better than walking or biking. When all you have is your own power to get you from start to finish, you have to slow down. You get to see details you would have missed in a car or plane.” – Steph Barker