My name is Nancy, this August I will cycle tour around Rwanda for three weeks. I will be travelling alone. Before I set off to explore the country, I will be raising money to donate to the Rwandan Cycling Team, especially to help support the women on the team. At the end of my trip, I will donate my carbon racing bike to the women riders. I will be blogging about fundraising and my trip here: nancyinrwanda.wordpress.com.
Last year I was looking for a challenge for 2014, I found it in a small country in the middle of Africa. The more I read, the more the story of cycling in Rwanda unfolded. In Rwanda a bike is not only a tool that supports rural life, it enables people to earn a living and is literally a means of propelling young Rwandans away from a life working in the fields.
A bike is not just a utilitarian object though, Rwandans cyclists are riding to race. Despite the divisions of the country's past, young Rwandans are coming together to train hard and are competing across Africa. Philip Gourevitch, writing in the New Yorker, summed up how powerful this is:
"[...] during the genocide, the riders were young boys. They had no agency in the crimes that defined their nation. All of them, Hutu and Tutsi, had been scarred, and they knew each other’s stories. They knew how they had been divided by identity in the past, and that those divisions still figure in Rwandan life, but they wanted to be known for something else. “Rwanda needs heroes,” a sports fan in Kigali, the capital, told me, and by doing something that every Rwandan could identify with—riding bicycles—these young men were fulfilling that need."
This really struck a chord with me. While I live a relatively privileged life in a stable country where education, welfare and good health is kind of expected; cycling is central to my existence. My bike is is my transport across the chaotic and congested city that I live in, it enables me to make a living as the Cycling Hairdresser and it is my means of escape from the everyday.
Kimberly Coats, Team Rwanda Cycling, blogs about her life in Africa and her work with Team Rwanda, she describes how cycling can empower women in Africa:
"If a woman in Africa has a bike she has a future. She is less likely to marry before the age of 18, less likely to have children before 18 and more likely to stay in school."
I came to realise that I could use my trip to help the women cyclists of Rwanda and I decided to raise money for Team Rwanda Cycling.
I have set the target of £2000 as this will enable me to sponsor three female cyclists for a full year. Any money that I raise above and beyond my target will contribute to sponsoring other cyclists (£60 per month), will help with the costs of training camps (a training camp costs around £750) and will pay for dental treatment (£60 per cyclist - dental problems are the number one factor in poor performance). All of my travel expenses will be paid from my own pocket, 100% of your donations will go to Team Rwanda Cycling.
At the end of my trip I will also donate my high spec carbon-fibre racing bike to the team. This is my own bike that I have owned and ridden for a couple of years.
Apart from my personal desire to travel and to help the women cyclists of Rwanda, I hope that my trip can help to change how people in Britain see Rwanda. To quote Kimberly Coats again:
"When you say the word Rwanda, immediately, thoughts of a genocide which happened 20 years ago this April, come to mind. Team Rwanda is helping to write a new story, the full story. Someday when you say Rwanda, people will think cycling, and a team which altered "the story". "
I want to contribute to this change in thinking.
You can read more about my trip and fundraising work on my blog. I will be posting as I prepare for my trip and while I am away.