[CAPTION]: One of the greatest examples of what volunteers can achieve is the Cape Town Cycle Tour. (High res image Photo credit: Cindy Taylor)

Tuesday 05 December 2017 is International Volunteers Day, a good time to reflect on the incredible sacrifice people make by giving their time and energy to help others, without expecting anything in return.

“Rotary is made up entirely of volunteers and very little would happen without them,” says Rotary Club of Claremont President Elect, Malcolm Dodd. “One of the greatest examples of what a group of volunteers can achieve when they get behind a single purpose is the Cape Town Cycle Tour (CTCT). Getting over 35 000 cyclists safely over the finishing line of one of the world’s greatest races is no small feat.”

Thirty-five years ago, long before the CTCT became the world’s largest timed cycle race, members of the Rotary Club of Claremont volunteered to act as marshals for the cyclists, and in so doing, raised funds which they used for outreach projects. “Over the years the race has grown, with a longer route and more and more cyclists entering, so we called on Rotarians from other clubs to join in to volunteer their time to help out on the day,” says Dodd.

“In 2018 we will have a record of 485 volunteers from 35 different Rotary Clubs, two Inner Wheel Clubs and six Rotaract Clubs, committing a total of 21 011 volunteer hours prior to and on race day,” says Dodd. In the days before the race, the official route will be checked 20 times by Rotarians looking for potholes and other potential hazards that may threaten to disrupt the smooth running of the event. On race day, in addition to the 1 000 marshals, 30 volunteers will be on the route on motorbikes, assisting cyclists with mechanical problems and lending them tools to patch tyres and fix their bicycles. Rotarians will also manage 30 sweep operations where trucks and trailers are used to pick up riders who have withdrawn from the race. Volunteer managers based at the 16 refreshment stations along the 109-kilometre route will keep in contact with sweep vehicles and Rotarians based at the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) using 120 radios and vehicle tracking software. All marshals and volunteers will receive text messages from the JOC volunteers handling communication on race day. In total 70 000 text messages will be sent out on the day to keep all the volunteers updated regarding the race.

“What is most astounding, is the willingness and enthusiasm from genuine, kind-hearted Rotarians who want to help. Not one person earns any income for the work they do, which involves a very early wake up and a long day out, probably standing in the sun, to direct cyclists and assist those who require help. It is truly magnificent to see what can be achieved when people volunteer their time to help,” says Dodd.

The role of volunteers in the success of CTCT does not end with the event itself. The Rotary Club of Claremont, made up entirely of volunteers, and the Pedal Power Association are equal shareholders of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust which now manages the race. The charitable surplus generated by the race is split between the two stakeholders. In 2017 there were 74 different Rotary projects that received funds allocated from the money raised through the CTCT. Projects range from renovations to libraries, schools and clinics; provision of specialised machinery, educational material and health care equipment; supplying computers to schools; and other educational and sporting initiatives.

“Rotarians know how rewarding it is to volunteer their time to ultimately help those who are less fortunate. It is incredible to play a small role in such a big event and to see lives improved for the better, thanks to the funds raised by volunteers at the CTCT.” Dodd encourages anyone who is interested in joining the Rotary Club of Claremont to find out more by visiting Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RotaryClubofClaremont/.