OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ A little bit of Africa rolled through Oswego, courtesy of Canada.
Nineteen Canadians got on their bikes July 3 and began the third annual fundraising trek benefiting a charity that ships recycled bicycles to Malawi, a small nation on the eastern edge of Africa.
It’s located between Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia.
“We are riding around Lake Ontario again for Africycle, this time with more riders and more Rotary Club members joining us,” said Michael VanDerHerberg. “We started in Peterborough, Ontario, and will end 10 days later in Peterborough, with Lake Ontario in between.”
VanDerHerberg doesn’t work for Africycle; he organized the ride to raise money for them, he noted.
Africycle’s vision is to help break the cycle of poverty in Malawi by providing access to high quality bicycles. Through bicycles, Malawians are able to improve the standard of living for both family and community.
“This is Ride for Africycle 3.0. We had seven riders last year with a mini-van. The first year it was just two of us,” VanDerHerberg told Oswego County Today. “This year, we left Peterborough with 19 riders and a modified school bus.”
They hope to have more than 60 riders for the 2010 event. The course will be done in reverse next year.
The group took a day off, July 8, at Fairhaven Beach State Park. Then they pedaled into the Port City. “It was beautiful there; absolutely gorgeous,” VanDerHerberg said.
With the establishment of a bicycle shop in Malawi, Africycle offers affordable bicycles while also generating funds to sustain itself and to contribute to local community development initiatives.
They are making the 1,000-kilometer (621.37 miles for those of us not on the metric system) trip around Lake Ontario in an effort to raise $30,000 for the Uxbridge, Ontario-based organization Africycle.
Last year they raised $12,600 of their $15,000 goal.
“That’s not bad,” VanDerHerberg smiled, “considering we came up with $700 the first year.”
The 2007 trip was from Peterborough to Bloomfield, both in Ontario. It took the two cyclists, David Blondel, a graphic designer, and Jordan Vander Klok, a student and landscaper, about seven hours to complete the 100 miles.
Bicycles obtained in Canada allow Africycle to provide a superior quality bike at a more affordable cost to the people of Malawi, VanDerHerberg explained.
The ride was going smoothly until the group neared Oswego.
“This has been the hilliest part of the trip, right around here,” VanDerHerberg said. “The toughest part of the trip is when your body breaks; I blew out my knee on the second day. I rode it out, used a lot of anti-inflammatory. It’s only bad when your body hurts. Other than that, it’s a joy to ride. It is a great ride with friends. We just talk and laugh the entire time. The camaraderie that comes out of the trip is just incredible.”
“What you do is just ride next to a guy for two hours, so you just talk and talk and talk,” added Ted R. Webb, founder of Africycle and program coordinator for Recycle-a-Bike. “It’s so enjoyable.”
From Oswego they headed to Selkirk State Park for lunch before finishing the day further north at Westcott Beach State Park.
The group consists of young men and women, working professionals from Peterborough, a few from Edmonton and elsewhere. Their ages range from 14 to 53 this year.
VanDerHerberg said he got the idea for the fundraiser after returning from Malawi where he had been part of a construction project.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I had a chance to experience some of the difficulties people have in Malawi. One of their challenges is transportation,” he said. “It became so apparent what a bicycle could actually do. The people have to walk for miles and miles in bare feet to go anywhere, to the market or to school. A bicycle is a huge relief to them.”
The easiest way to describe it, he said, is to think about how we use our cars and trucks.
“I was able to connect with that need quite well, myself being a cyclist,” he said.
“The funds that we are raising are primarily for shipping costs,” Webb said.
Malawian locals refurbish the bicycles and sell them to members of the community, he added.
For more information or to find out how you can make a donation, visit http://www.rideforafricycle.com/