Morning Star Staff
Grant and Dor’Ann Russouw are no strangers to helping others.
The Kelowna residents are often fundraising for one cause or another throughout the year, but last year Grant experienced a reversal of giving when his name was drawn for a trip for two to Rwanda through the Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda.
The annual ride raises money for The Wellspring Foundation for Education, a charity which supports schools, teachers and children in Rwanda. In September, cyclists will once again ride a return route from Vernon to Eagle Bay Camp on Shuswap Lake.
Last year was Grant’s first time at the event, and the trip to Rwanda was a special draw that coincided with the fifth anniversary of the Lake2Lake, the 10th anniversary of Wellspring’s work in Rwanda, and 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda.
Grant was born in South Africa and lived there until he was nine, so the Kelowna-based engineering technologist is thrilled with the opportunity to see more of the continent. Neither he nor Dor’Ann have been to Rwanda before, and the couple will spend time with the Wellspring staff and the teachers, children and schools Wellspring is helping. They will also hit some of the tourist highlights such as the National Museum and a trip to the mountains to see the gorillas.
Grant, an avid cyclist, wanted to combine his love of cycling with his desire to help others, so he formed a team and raised funds for the 2014 Lake2Lake ride.
“It was fantastic,” he said of the ride. “You know where the money is going and now I get to see it. I was born in South Africa, so African charities are close to my heart.”
Through an innovative school development program that works with all educational stakeholders, Wellspring is helping to raise up a generation of leaders by improving the school system, and assisting countless youths to receive the education needed to change a country with a dark past.
It was 21 years ago that 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 Okanagan cyclists come in.
Shirley Malnis, partner engagement co-ordinator for The Wellspring Foundation for Education, and coordinator of the ride, said the money raised from the ride will change the lives of children half a world away.
“The donations collected from the ride will go directly to helping Rwandan teachers and students,” she said.
While Dor’Ann is more of a marathon runner than cyclist, she will be part of this year’s ride in a support capacity, and she will be bringing her three children with her to this family-friendly event.
“I think this year we plan to join as a family at Eagle Bay and we will be volunteering along the way,” she said.
While organizers will not be giving away a trip to Rwanda this year, Malnis said there will be early bird prizes, as well as other rider draws during the Saturday evening program.
Fundraising is optional for the riders, and although individuals may raise funds, new to the ride this year is the team challenge. Malnis said teams of four are asked to raise a minimum of $5,000 for the cause and challenge others to do so as well. Grant is already planning to meet that challenge, and is actively recruiting riders to be part of his team.
The teams will be competing to have their names inscribed on a trophy that will be hand-carved by a world-renowned Rwandan sculptor, Laurent Hategekimana. While the ride is just over 220 kilometres, Malnis said participants do not have to ride the entire distance and can plan to relay off with other team members.
Individual riders pay $200 (early bird rate if registered by June 15) to register, and receive a rider bag with swag, full en-route support throughout the weekend including food and accommodation, prizes, a post-ride massage on Saturday, and a wind-up barbecue Sunday.
“There are riders of all abilities. Most riders meet others who ride at the same pace as them, and make new friends at the same time,” said Malnis.
Last year, 65 riders raised more than $40,000 for Wellspring, and this year, Malnis hopes more than 75 riders will take part. This year’s Lake2Lake takes place Sept. 19 and 20, stretching 220 km through the Okanagan and Shuswap.
For more information and to register, go to www.lake2lake.org or call Malnis at 250-542-0398. For more information on Wellspring, go to www.thewellspringfoundation.org