Thursday, September 27, 2007


Take a look on Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Financial Post Business Magazine!

Just a quick note to let you know that on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007 you should check out a copy of Financial Post Business Magazine. If you purchase the National Post newspaper, you will find the magazine inside. At the back of that you will find an article written by a Financial Post author about my experience on the tour.

The monthly magazine includes a section at the back about an average working Canadian enjoying an outdoor, athletic activity to motivate readers to stay active. What a better way to keep active than enjoying our own countryside without the din of your car's engine. Love biking to work!


The Bicycle Donation - Finally the Full Story!

Myself shaking hands with Fryson Chodzi, the director of CAYO - the organization to which the bicycles were presented

The line-up of bicycles being presented. The bike in the foreground is an anomoly; all of the others are the typical local type which can be easily repaired.

CAP-AIDS representative Kevin Perkins presenting the bicycles to CAYO (Mr. Chodzi in the foreground)

Myself meeting Mr. Perkins at his office in Ottawa where he told me about the presentation.

Well this is a post that sure has been long awaited! Many probably noticed that in my previous writings that I very quickly glossed over any details about one of the most important parts of these online writings - the tale of the presentation of the bicycles in Lilongwe, Malawi. Here it is now...finally!

To try to annotate (you will also notice that brevity is not one of my strong points), the funds were transferred from the Tour d'Afrique Foundation here in Canada to CAYO (Counselling of Adolescent & Youth Organization) in Malawi. Unfortunately, the US bank was a little paranoid with a large amount of US currency being given to a small organization in Malawi which is apparently on the US terrorism watch list. As such, they did not allow the transfer to happen.

After much trouble, the funds ended up going through another charity in Ethiopia in Canadian currency and down to CAYO in Malawi. Unfortunately, this delay meant that the bicycles had not been acquired when I arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi. The organization scraped together enough funds to purchase three bicycles such that I would have something with two wheels to present on that day. Very thoughtful of them.

It was a great opportunity to sit down with the director of CAYO, Mr. Fryson Chodzi and speak with him about the types of bicycles that they were planning to purchase, who will be using the bicycles, how they plan to keep track of the bicycles, how the bicycles are going to be repaired, among other issues.

Admittedly, I was fairly disappointed when I saw the bicycles that were at my presentation (in the background of the photo of myself shaking hands with Mr. Chodzi). They were low-end full suspension bicycles. Anyone who has done any cycling knows that these bicycles really have no advantages at all because they are mechanically complex and prone to breakage due to the low quality of the components. The low-end rear suspension is also extremely inefficient since it bobs up and down repeatedly sucking energy away. These bicycles are also difficult to repair locally because of their different parts and therefore it is extremely unlikely that these bicycles will be repaired at all. I spoke my concerns with CAYO and learned that they were under the impression that these bicycles would be ideal for the purpose of getting to remote places because of their rugged appearance, but also admitted to not realize their inherant disadvantages. I made it over some extremely rough roads on my fully rigid (no suspension at all) bicycle to this point in the tour and I think that convinced them that locally common, mechanically simple bicycles would be a better donation choice.

Over the next couple of months, communications were not common which is understandable since I was finishing cycling across a continent and computer time is not as easy for locals to access as it was for us travellers using foreign currency. In time, I finally found out the details I was looking for.

The bicycle presentation finally happened on June 2nd, by which time I was back in Canada. Luckily, Mr. Kevin Perkins also from Ottawa was there for a few purposes and witnessed the presentation of the bicycles to their recipients. After playing around with our schedules, I finally met up with Mr. Perkins last week so I could ask a bunch of questions about the presentation.

The question that was bugging me the most was the actual cost of the bicycles. From the beginning of my involvement with the Tour d'Afrique Foundation, I was under the impression that the bicycles themselves were worth $100USD which is why donations of this amount resulted in one bicycle being donated. There was a fear in my mind that the bicycles were actually significantly cheaper, however I was extremely wrong! The bicycles were all of different values since there were a few types for different purposes. The most expensive ones were the bicycle ambulances. These are custom-built bicycles with a stretcher welded on to the rear to act as a human-powered ambulance to deliver people to medical help in emergencies. These apparently cost $300USD.

The average cost for a bicycle turned out to be $130USD. How it worked was that 100% of the donations from the Tour d'Afrique Foundation went toward the bicycles themselves, and another charity CAP AIDS (Canada-Africa Partnership on AIDS) topped off the final $30USD and took care of the administrative costs of delivering the bicycles! Thanks CAP AIDS!

Though the process was a little more involved than originally planned, the final result was that 24 bicycles were donated to very thankful native Malawian health care workers that can now see between 5-10 times the number of patients in one day that they could whilst walking. The large number of communities that these bicycles were spread to now have health providers sustainable means of transportation to tend to the overwhealming health care needs of citizens of a developing portion of the world. They have YOU to thank for your generous donations. Thank-you!

I was congratulated by the Tour d'Afrique Foundation for having raised the most amount of money for the Foundation than any other rider in its history. I forward the congratulations and huge thanks to you the donors; thanks for not only helping people receive better health care, but also helping more people enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bicycle. Join me in celebrating by all turning our own pedals and help spread the bicycle back home as well.

Many thanks!

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