Lifestyles

Riding for Rwanda

Barb Elgin interacts with the children during a visit to Gasabo public school in February. The school in Rwanda is one of a number of schools being helped by the Wellspring Foundation for Education
Barb Elgin interacts with the children during a visit to Gasabo public school in February. The school in Rwanda is one of a number of schools being helped by the Wellspring Foundation for Education's Ignite48 Program and the Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda.
— image credit: photo submitted

With every turn of the pedal, with every kilometer completed, children in Rwanda will receive a better education.

For the fifth year, cyclists will be riding from Vernon to Shuswap Lake and back again in the Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda to raise money for the Wellspring Foundation for Education.

The faith-based organization is dedicated to helping children in Rwanda receive a higher level of education through sponsoring classrooms and by training teachers how to better teach their students.

Shirley Malnis, partner engagement coordinator for The Wellspring Foundation for Education and Lake2Lake coordinator, said the money raised from the ride changes the lives of children half a world away.

“The school system in the African nation differs greatly from the Canadian model,” she said. “The current public system can be Draconian, and it is not uncommon for a teacher to use a stick to discipline students.

“It becomes a much more interesting job for the teachers once they learn improved teaching skills like behavior modification, how to use teaching aids and teaching through group work,” said Malnis, adding that parents are also taught the value of education and many are supporting their children’s teachers with donations of food and other material goods. “You can really see the love between the kids and the teachers.”

Barb Elgin, who organizes volunteers for the event, said thanks to  the Ignite48 program, Wellspring is helping to train up the next generation by improving the school system and assisting countless youths to receive the education needed to change a country with a dark past.

“Teaching is one of the lowest paying jobs in Rwanda and teachers are not shown how to interact with their students to bring out the best in them,” she said. “But Ignite48 is changing that.”

The goal of Ignite48 is to transform 48 Rwandan schools into vibrant communities, to impact the lives of more than 1,200 teachers and more than 70,000 children.

It was 20 years ago Rwanda suffered through a genocide that left hundreds of thousands of people dead. The land is healing, the people are moving forward, but to reach stability and prosperity, education is vital.

And that is where local cyclists come in. Donations collected from the Lake2Lake Ride go directly to helping Rwandan teachers, students and parents.

Riders will leave Dutch’s Campground in Coldstream Sept. 20 and ride to Eagle Bay Camp on Shuswap Lake to overnight. On Sept. 21 they will pedal back to Vernon, for a round-trip distance of 220 km. People can choose to ride in teams, with each team deciding how much of the route each member will ride, or an individual can tackle the entire distance on their own.

To commemorate 20 years since the genocide, 10 years since the formation of Wellspring and five years of the Lake2Lake, a special prize is being offered. Any rider or volunteer who fundraises more than $1,200 will have their name put in a draw to win a trip for two to Rwanda in 2015. Last year, cyclists raised $93,000.

Elgin said you don’t have to be a cyclist to help out.

“We are looking for volunteers to fill a variety of positions,” said Elgin, who travelled to Rwanda for the first time earlier this year where she met many of the students and teachers Ignite48 is working with. “This experience has given me the ability to truly understand that what I’m doing does play a part in impacting children and families in Rwanda. So often we volunteer for causes or organizations without having the privilege of actually seeing what difference our efforts make in the lives of the people. Now I can fully embrace our efforts to support the riders and know that the money raised is being used to better the lives of ordinary Rwandans. I’ve seen it first-hand and met the trainers, teachers, students and parents who benefit from the support.

“It’s exciting to play even a small role in the impact that is being felt throughout the public schools due to the efforts of Wellspring.”

Anyone interested in riding or helping out can register at lake2lake.org or contact info@lake2lake.org

 

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