Mathias (left) and Lora Fellenz cycling in Rwanda in March as part of Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda.

Mathias (left) and Lora Fellenz cycling in Rwanda in March as part of Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda.

Local cyclists have global focus

Cyclists are gearing up for the Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda, taking place in the North Okanagan/Shuswap in September

Vernon’s Mathias Fellenz is a local cyclist with a global focus.

After taking up road cycling in 2010, he heard about the Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda.  He wasn’t sure he could do a 100 km ride two days in a row but the idea intrigued him and he decided to give it a try.

From that trip he learned more about the ride’s sponsor, the Wellspring Foundation for Education, and the work they do in Rwanda. Last year Mathias’ wife Lora also took up cycling and now it has become a regular family activity.

Wellspring is a Canadian charity that has been working in Rwanda since 2004, equipping teachers at the heart of the education system to make a difference in the quality of the lives of young people across Rwanda.

The team of Rwandan teacher-trainers helps 48 entire school communities to bring transformation and sustainable results. They are improving school quality and teacher motivation through training in servant leadership, peace and reconciliation, quality education, worldview, parental involvement in education and the integration of values into the curriculum so that more than 63,000 children are being impacted. School communities have made significant progress, including improved parent-teacher collaboration, decreased absenteeism, increased active participation, greater care for students and higher motivation.

An opportunity to be part of a vision trip to Rwanda this spring served to further develop Mathias and Lora’s understanding of the focus of Wellspring and the country’s past, present and future.  On that trip they were able to ride some of the back roads of Rwanda by mountain bike.

“It was a really neat experience,” said Mathias. “Dusty, dirty roads kind of came up in your face and yet all the way along there was phenomenal scenery and a wonderful openness with the people.

“We had this one experience where we were coming up a long hill. The people of the next village obviously saw us coming. By the time we got to the top, everyone was lining both sides of the road, cheering as each one crested the hill.  It felt like we were in the Tour de France!”

What impressed Lora was the opportunity to experience the backbone of Rwanda and interact with its people.

“To meet and engage with the people in the countryside gave us a real sense of who the people are that Wellspring is partnering with,” she said.

Mathias and Lora were also struck by the quality of the people involved with Wellspring.

“They have a heart for the people and a heart for education,” said Mathias. “Their commitment is very solid, very strong.”

When Mathias and Lora found out the dates of this year’s Lake2Lake, they were disappointed, since they had already committed to a 46-day bike tour from St. Petersburg, Russia to Istanbul, Turkey.  However, as they thought more about it they decided that if people in Canada could ride in support of Rwanda, they could ride in Eastern Europe in support of Rwanda.

Mathias has put up a poster in his medical office and is encouraging patients to partner with him and Lora. There are pledge forms in the office (3105 – 27th St.) and Mathias and Lora will match every dollar donated through the office.

The Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda is a 220 km fully supported ride. The fourth annual event is Sept. 21 and 22 and begins near Kalamalka Lake on the Saturday morning and travels to Eagle Bay Camp on the shores of Shuswap Lake. After overnighting there, riders return to Dutch’s Campground for a barbecue.

Families are invited to share in the activities, including dinner, a campfire and a short presentation on the work Wellspring does in Rwanda. This year, a team component has been added. Teams of four can cycle any combination of ride segments. Early bird registration deadline is July 31. Volunteers are also required, and experience is not necessary. See www.lake2lake.org for details or call Shirley at 250-542-0398.