Maverick Citizen

CYCLE TOUR TRIUMPH

Qaqamba Cuba rides against the odds to boost Red Cross Children’s Hospital radio station

Qaqamba Cuba rides against the odds to boost Red Cross Children’s Hospital radio station
Qaqamba Cuba, an RX Radio reporter, and Ettienne Wilsnagh, a long-time cyclist, at the Cape Town Cycle Tour 2024. (Photo: Supplied / Qaqamba Cuba

Qaqamba Cuba from the Red Cross Children’s Hospital’s RX Radio did the Cape Town Cycle Tour to raise funds for the child-centred radio station.

Completing the 109km Cape Town Cycle Tour is an impressive feat under any circumstances. For Qaqamba Cuba (24), an RX Radio reporter and board member living with congenital scoliosis, it was also an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the child-centred radio station based at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.

Cuba completed the race on 10 March with the help of the Warrior on Wheels Foundation and cyclist Ettienne Wilsnagh. The foundation provided the buggy in which Cuba rode, while Wilsnagh towed it with his bicycle.

“For me, it was exciting because I didn’t know that there was something like that out there… so I was like, ‘Okay, let me take the opportunity and I can use it to raise funds for RX Radio’. This year my target was R10,000 and luckily I did reach that target,” said Cuba.

This was not Cuba’s first fundraising campaign. In 2023 she took part in the Sanlam Cape Town Marathon to raise money for the radio station, again with the support of Warrior on Wheels and local athletes.

RX Radio cycle tour

Qaqamba Cuba in the buggy provided by the Warrior on Wheels Foundation. (Photo: Supplied / Ettienne Wilsnagh)

“I really enjoyed the Cape Town Cycle Tour, even though when we were going downhill it went a bit faster, so it was a bit scary… I think the nice thing about it was that it was longer than the Sanlam marathon, which was about 42km,” she said.

Cuba is completing her master’s in criminal justice at the University of the Western Cape, where she also holds a student assistant position in the Office for Students with Disabilities. When she was about 15 years old she became one of the first Red Cross Hospital patients to get involved in the RX Radio pilot, a project that aimed to provide child presenters – mostly patients at the hospital with chronic conditions – with a space to talk about issues that were important to them.

A person cannot infect you with a disability, and I wish people could treat people with disabilities as normal.

“We would walk around the hospital and interview doctors, and we did the training. That’s how I became involved with RX Radio. I had my own show, called Qaqamba Inspiration Corner… In Red Cross Hospital there are TVs and the patients can listen to us through the TVs,” explained Cuba.

“I think RX Radio is important because children with chronic conditions and disabilities are able to tell their stories in their own way, and I think everyone has a story to tell. We are also educating people about people with disabilities or chronic conditions. It also boosts the children’s confidence to say that they can do anything they want to do – they can be radio presenters, even though they have disabilities or chronic conditions.”

More needs to be done to accommodate people with disabilities in different spaces, as well as to educate people about different conditions, said Cuba. She emphasised that “a disability is not like a sickness. A person cannot infect you with a disability, and I wish people could treat people with disabilities as normal.”

Noluyolo Ngomani, station manager at RX Radio, said the team was proud of Cuba’s achievement in the Cape Town Cycle Tour, as well as her past efforts to raise funds for the station.

“As our reporter and board member, her vision of sustaining the station so that it remains operational for many more years to come is an inspirational one. Moreover, it is encouraging to see Qaqamba, who is living with congenital scoliosis, embarking on a journey to have children living with disabilities and chronic conditions integrated into sports,” she said.

A feeling of community

Wilsnagh has collaborated with Warrior on Wheels to help people with disabilities, usually children, to take part in the Cape Town Cycle Tour for the past six years. The experience not only allows him to help others but also to push himself as an athlete, he explained.

Along with two support riders, Wilsnagh and Cuba completed this year’s race in just under five hours. Wilsnagh told Daily Maverick that he aims to keep participating in the Warrior on Wheels programme for as long as he is physically able to.

Reflecting on the most recent race, he said there was a feeling of community throughout the journey. “I’m on my bike, so I can’t see what happens behind me, but later, the evening of the event, I saw a video clip where there were literally six people pushing the buggy. And that, again, was just a reminder of Cape Town and South Africa and the whole sense of Ubuntu and community,” he said.

“I do think this was the best Cape Town Cycle Tour I’ve been able to participate in – the crowd, the cheering, the number of people on the side of the road who gave that support… At any given moment there were passersby who would just help.” DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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