The cyclists arrive in De Rust on Sunday. Photo: Supplied
The cyclists arrive in De Rust on Sunday. Photo: Supplied
Setting off from Port Elizabeth on Thursday. Photo: Supplied
Setting off from Port Elizabeth on Thursday. Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

Port Elizabeth - Twelve cyclists en route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town to raise funds for children with cleft lips or palates arrived in De Rust on Sunday, hot and exhausted, on the fourth day of a 10-leg journey expected to round off at 1000km.

In aid of "Operation Smile", the awareness ride dubbed "Miles for Smiles" left Port Elizabeth on Thursday. The cyclists will also take part in the Cape Town Cycle Tour, with the goal of raising R140,000 to help change the lives of children with facial deformities.

On Monday, the cyclists will ride 65km to Calitzdorp. Day six will be a 115km journey to Ronnie's Shop near Barrydale, and day seven will see them en route to Robertson. Then comes Paarl and the finish in the Mother City. On day 10 the cyclist will participate in the Cape Town Cycle Tour of 109km.

Children with cleft conditions, who survive, may have difficulty eating, speaking, hearing, or breathing properly. In some communities, they are shunned, rejected, and ostracised, and in many cases, their parents can not afford the surgery needed to help them lead a normal, productive life.

Operation Smile national brand ambassador Shannon Smit said the organisation was hoping to raise funds for about 20 "smiles" this year. Smit said each procedure for a cleft palate repair cost R5600 and last year they managed to raise R100,000.

Setting off from Port Elizabeth on Thursday. Video: ANA/ Raahil Sain

The funds raised went to local South African projects, as well as in Ghana and Mozambique. "Operation Smile is one of the largest medical companies that work towards a global movement towards fixing cleft lip, palate, and facial deformities. We really hope to create a whole lot of awareness and to raise funds for about 20 smiles," said Smit.

Cyclist Barry Woods said he was taking part in "Miles for Smiles" because the project was close to his heart after his daughter was involved in a car accident three years ago. "I rode PE to Cape Town before to raise funds for her. Since then I've had back surgery and I've always said that I want to do this and I'm stoked.

"God is good;  he has given me a chance to ride again. We do have challenges along the way but we are going to be blessed, it's for a good cause," said Woods.

Cyclist Wouter Roux said he decided to get involved because he saw an elderly person who had never had reconstructive surgery before. "When I saw the transformation through that person's face and his life, it just became such a passion so close to me.

"We are so fortunate to be involved in the charity work generating money for people who can't afford it. It's just for smiles," said a beaming Roux.

African News Agency (ANA)