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history of songo.info

Songo and Christoph with some songo.info kidssongo.info is a powerful collaboration of Christoph Sauser, world champion mountain biker and Songo Fipaza, a well recognised local community leader. Together the two guys have come together to give rise to the program, songo.info.

Christoph, a Swiss national, has been coming to South Africa regularly since 1997 so much so that he has come to call Stellenbosch his second home! He has developed a deep bond with the country and when he fortuitously met Songo Fipaza in 2008, he recognised the opportunity to connect his global network to the man who was working so hard and tirelessly in Kayamandi, to help make his children’s dreams possible.

Christoph shares his story of this fortuitous meet:  

How can I find a strong partner for the 2008 Cape Epic? This was a difficult challenge that I was facing at that time as  the race organisation only allows racers to team up and race in the same clothing.

Is it possible? Can I find a top rider who can race in Specialized gear for this race only? This posed a real challenge as it’s very difficult to find a professional rider at this level who is free from such contracts!

This question was in my head for days, and I could not find a solution, until I got an idea late one night: let’s ride for charity, or even better let’s created our own charity!

Thanks to Specialized who were so supportive of the idea, I managed to secure a partnership with the South African, and then GT rider, Burry Stander. The beauty of this idea meant that we could both race in neutral clothing, specific to charity.

With an elite rider secured, a significant part of the problem was solved, but the time was already so close to the race, and the charity and it’s objectives had still to be established. Enter Ruth Bird. In Ruth, I found the best partner to get everything going. We  wanted to use the Cape Epic opportunity to raise money and support something local, since Stellenbosch is an area I have visited for training since 1997 is very close to my heart. At an ABSA Bank dinner, by sheer coincidence, we met Songo Fipaza and heard of the need for sport in the Kayamandi township of Stellenbosch. Songo mentioned the need for a BMX facility, and that was it – our goals were aligned! Extraordinary!

With the name Songo, also came the name for the charity, and so songo.info was born.

It may sound easy, but there were a number of big steps that we had to go through. Setting up a charity is not something that happens overnight. Luckily we were able to lean of the support of the JAG foundation, who provided us with the opportunity to leverage their infrastructure, enabling us to get the foundation off the ground really quickly. It made so much sense as they were already established with the Mighty Meters program already running in Kayamandi & had recognition throughout South Africa. Their infrastructure and manpower provided our dream with a foundation and existing infrastructure to focus on fundraising to build a BMX track. Former South African MTB Olympian Erica Green also played a fundamental role in establishing the songo.info program, helping us and project managing the building of the BMX track. She guided the diggers around perfectly!

In four months, from its conception to implementation, we raised enough money to build a BMX track, and associated program …. Not bad, but it doesn’t end there. Our next goal was to create a mountain biking club, Cycle4Kayamandi and to create opportunities for the older children to learn mountain biking skills.

By the end of 2009 the Cycling4Kayamandi project was up and running and beginning to make waves wherever the kids showed up to race. With over 25 Specialized Rockhopper and Stump jumper hardtail mountain bikes at their disposal Songo and the kids have been training and racing local events which include duathlons, multisport races and showing the mountain bike community what they are all about!”

In 2010 the project set out on its next objective, to set-up its own structure and operations to take the organisation to the next level as it’s own entity with long term vision and strategy. We’re really proud of the achievements to date with so many more of the children and young adults taking part in an array of events and races in the Western Cape and around South Africa. It is such a privilege to personally witness how these young kids grow and develop so much through their participation in sporting activities. It’s been incredible to see how they grow in confidence  improve in school and in their own personal development.