Danzil Afrika is a young man with a mission – he wants children from disadvantaged communities to have reliable access to the diabetes medication they need in order to lead normal, active and healthy lives. So he and fifteen other cyclists will be hitting the tar today, 8th November, to take up the Changing Diabetes® Cycle Challenge, a marathon challenge of cycling from Joburg to George in just 48 hours. The aim of this non-stop event is to raise funds to provide treatment for underprivileged youngsters living with this chronic condition.
The group will be accompanied by legendary former Bok, Joel Stransky, who enthusiastically supports its objective. “Everyone deserves to feel good and have a proper start in life,” he says, “and for these kids that means getting the treatment and care they need.”
Danzil knows what a difference a healthy lifestyle and the right treatment can make. He is a member of the C4D cycling (Cycle4Diabetes) team established by George-based GP Dr Jacques van Staden. This dedicated team of cyclists raises around R800,000 a year to provide 16 children with analogue insulin, which costs R50 000 per year per child.
“I know how important this medication is,” says Danzil, “and I want to make sure that as many children as possible can have access to it.”
Danzil, who lives in an informal settlement in Oudtshoorn, took up cycling at the age of 15, when a teacher at his school recommended the sport as an alternative to rugby.
“I loved it right from the start,” he says, “and the exercise really helped me. However, soon after leaving school, Danzil found himself struggling to make a living and to fund his sport. This is when he came to the attention of Dr van Staden, who offered him a place on the C4D team and financial support to buy equipment. With his race winnings providing a small income, he was able to devote himself full time to cycling and, in the past few years, he has placed extremely well at some of the country’s most prominent events, including the Cape Argus.
“The message he wants to give to those taking an interest in the cycle challenge is that, living with diabetes doesn’t mean you have to opt out of sports like cycling,” he says. “It’s just a matter of managing the condition with the right treatment, and making the right lifestyle choices. Then anything is possible.”
Dr Timmy Kedijang of Novo Nordisk, which sponsors C4D and which is sponsoring the Changing Diabetes® Cycle Challenge from Joburg to George, concurs.
“Approximately 3.5 million South Africans are living with diabetes,” he says. “The problem is that only about half have been diagnosed – and only about half of those are receiving some form of treatment.
“That is why we support events such as these – to raise awareness of diabetes and to demonstrate the fact that, with proper management, people living with the condition can do anything they choose to do.”
For Danzil, this is a start of his greatest ambition – to cycle in the Tour de France. Right now, though, he is preparing to tackle the challenge of cycling from Joburg to George. This, he hopes, will give youngsters from disadvantaged communities the chance to manage their diabetes successfully and, like him, fulfil their dreams.