While the cycling world has experienced meltdown over the past week, former world champion Mark Cavendish has been in Africa to witness at first hand the work of charity Right To Play, which transforms the lives of children who have encountered problems unimaginable to most of us in the developed world.
During the two-day visit to the East African country accompanied by fellow Olympians Mark Hunter and Crista Cullen, Cavendish, who has been one of the charity’s ambassadors for several years as outlined in an article here on road.cc last year, visited Right To Play projects to learn more about it work as well as meet some of the children it has helped.
Cavendish, who himself became a father this year, visited several primary schools running Right To Play projects and, in the country's biggest city, Dar es Salaam, the Msimamo Youth Center, where he had a long chat with a 20-year-old named Halema whose story reflects the tyoe of hardship that the children the charity helps have endured.
After the youngster’s parents died of AIDS six years ago, she was taken in by an aunt who forced her into prostitution, but found a way out after becoming involved in Right To Play programmes.
Cavendish said: " I'm blown away about what I've seen over the last few days. To see these kids getting their lives on track, building confidence, learning about team work and self respect is amazing.
“We all take play, messing about with our mates, kicking a football and riding a bike and take it for granted – these kids have not had any opportunities to have fun and develop until they got involved with Right To Play – what they do is so simple but so effective. I'm really proud to be part of this organisation."
Cavendish was followed on the trip by a Sky Sports News team which will air a documentary about his work for Right To Play on 29th October.
That’s two days before the route of next year’s Tour de France is officially unveiled in Paris, and it may well be that we’ll know by then which team Cavendish, a regular attendee of the presentation, will be riding for in 2013.
You can find out more about Right To Play’ work here.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.