Top: Boeta & Tina taking a moment at the finish
Bottom: Team Boeta tackling Suikerbossie
Top: Team Leigh cruising through Muizenberg
Bottom: Leigh celebrating a birthday at Chaeli Cottage
by Shelly Stedman
Most people don’t know it but 20 March is International Day of Happiness. The day was established in June 2012 after the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that made it a “fundamental human goal” to prioritise happiness as much as economic growth and opportunities.
International Day of Happiness aims to make people around the world realise the importance of happiness within their own lives.
There is even a World Happiness Report based on a survey completed by participating countries and ranks them according to their happiness based on six factors, namely GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption.
Now when I read this I thought about our own country, currently ranked 101 out of 146 participating countries in the World Happiness Report. There are plenty of factors about our country that may sadden most of us but then I thought that perhaps we need to identify what makes us happy in our own individual lives. After all happiness is something that we choose for ourselves isn’t it?
So the question is….what makes you happy? Is it being surrounded by family or friends? Spending time in nature? Playing your favourite sport? Or perhaps it’s reading a good book with a cup of tea?
Since learning about International Day of Happiness I have been looking at the world a little differently to see if I can identify what makes people happy and one of the moments that come to mind was supporting cyclists of all shapes, sizes, ages and nationalities in the Cape Town Cycle Tour, which took place on 13 March.
Yes, I may have been supporting at a relatively flat part of the route but there were smiles and whoops of joy from most of the cyclists who passed me. This event sees thousands of individuals participating every year and while there is definitely a small percentage of the field that competes; the majority is going out there to challenge themselves and to enjoy time out on the road doing something that they love.
This year The Chaeli Campaign had a small but incredible group of cyclists, including three buggy teams, take part in the Cycle Tour in Chaeli colours, and being able to cheer them on as they whizz past is a highlight every year.
Buggy teams were not always included in the event but after discussions with the team at Cape Town Cycle Tour we were granted permission to enter our first buggy teams in 2013. A buggy team is comprised of a pilot rider, a disabled buggy rider (someone who is unable to participate as a solo cyclist due to their disability) and a support rider.
Since 2013 we have entered fourteen buggy teams in the Cape Town Cycle Tour. Our buggy riders have differed in all ways from gender, age and disability but the one thing they have in common is the pure joy and happiness we see on their faces as they take part in the world’s largest, and possibly most beautifully scenic, individually-timed race.
We have seen children from Chaeli Cottage Preschool and Chaeli Sports & Recreation Club dancers participate as buggy riders. There have been some individuals who have approached the Cycle Tour with trepidation but once they get to know their Pilot and Support riders they are normally put at ease and then they can truly enjoy the experience. And on race day, let me tell you, they are treated like royalty.
I will never forget when Boeta, one of our buggy riders, was teamed up with an absolute machine of a partner, Tina. He was thrilled that he could have cups of Coca-Cola while waving to spectators and at one point when Tina turned around to check on him he had a giant foam finger on his hand that was given to him by someone cheering them on. The buggy team experience is not only special for the buggy rider but also for the pilot & support rider too. Tina recalled how she was ready to give up when they were climbing Suikerbossie and all of a sudden she heard Boeta say “Come on Tina, go, go, go! Use those legs.” Her legs may have been sore but her heart soared and got them over the finish line to claim their first medal as a Buggy Team.
Another one of our buggy riders was a former Chaeli Cottage Preschool graduate, Leigh. She participated with her father as pilot and her mother as support rider. Leigh is non-verbal however the sounds of joy & pure happiness we heard from her as she completed her first Cycle Tour is something we will never forget.
Our buggy riders have all faced challenges and limitations in their lives due to their disability however at The Chaeli Campaign we believe in inclusion and to be able to present the opportunity to be part of a race such as The Cycle Tour to these individuals has been nothing short of amazing.
Life gives us all sorts of experiences. Some good. Some not so good. We can never have total control over what happens to us but if we can approach life with gratitude and find meaning in all scenarios, we can thrive and be happy regardless.
So this is my challenge to you today…first, put on “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and ask yourself what truly makes you happy. Now ask yourself “How can I pursue it?”