For 25 years, Gisela Nilsson has brought energy, insight and dedication to her various roles in Cultural Care Au Pair and for 10 years, since its inception, she has been a caring crusader for Cultural Care Kids First Foundation. Over the years, she has passionately organized Kids First fundraisers, created Kids First materials, and worked with children’s organizations on four continents.
Gisela’s mom recently passed away and, as a community, Cultural Care decided to honor Ingrid Nilsson with a very special donation through Cultural Care Kids First Foundation.
“Gisela, in honor of your mom’s adventurous spirit and love for bike riding, and in recognition of your dedication to Cultural Care Kids First Foundation and helping the children of South Africa, Cultural Care and Kids First will be making a donation of new little bikes to children in need in Cape Town. We hope that knowing that so many people care brings you comfort and that this tribute to your mom brings happy memories of your bike rides and other adventures together over the years.”
Kids First chose the children of Abaphumeleli Orphanage in the township of Khayelitsha as the recipients of the bike donation in memory of Ingrid. Abaphumeleli is home to 30 children ages 3 months to 16 years. About 50% of the children live there permanently and the other half are temporary care children that are there for anywhere from 24 hours to a couple of years. The mission of the home is to give orphans and abandoned children a safe and loving home and to protect children from violence, neglect and abuse.
The bikes were recently delivered to Abaphumeleli by the Bicycling Empowerment Network South Africa. Daniella Storm from Cultural Care’s office in Sydney, who raised money for additional bikes for the children, was there for the delivery with other Cultural Care staff.
“Our staff were able to spend time with the youngest children and then see the older kids getting home from school and seeing the bikes for the first time! The older boys were especially excited and could barely get their school uniforms off before they were out on the street racing up and down with huge smiles on their faces. The younger ones were enjoying being pushed around by us adults making ‘beep beep’ sounds and insisting on one more lap of the yard. What a fabulous experience! We all really enjoyed our visit and were extremely inspired by Nick and Evelyn who run the orphanage – some of the most impressive, selfless, dedicated individuals I have ever met!”
Nick Grava, managing director at Abaphumeleli, said, “The kids absolutely love the bikes and I think, for the first time in their lives, the kids feel like the coolest kids in the neighborhood. As they raced up and down our street we attracted all the children from the surrounding area that all wanted to ride on the back. It’s opened up a whole world of possibilities. With supervision, we’ve taken the older children for some longer rides around safe areas, and I think they’re loving both the speed and the exercise. The little kids, of course, can’t get enough of them and it’s been really amazing to see how fast they learn to balance.”
Says Gisela, “The gesture from Kids First to donate the bikes to the kids in memory of my mom was the most wonderful surprise. She would have been so happy and proud – the perfect memory. She loved her bike and used it anytime she could. I get teary eyed just thinking about it, imagining the little kids biking around.”