With each pedal stroke, a group of Victoria grandmothers are having fun and making a difference.
“It feels pretty wonderful to understand that we are changing lives with every pedal stroke we take really because the money that we spend goes a long way in Africa,” explains Laurie Wilson of Victoria Grandmothers for Africa.
The non-profit is raising money to help their counterparts in Africa, where there are 15 million children have been orphaned due to the HIV crisis.
“Instead of farm fields in some places, there’s grave sites,” explains Victoria Grandmothers for Africa’s Peggy Frank, who has worked in Africa. “And the grandmothers are looking after the grandchildren because they love them, but they haven’t got a source of income so it’s really, really hard for them.”
This is the 17th year for the cycle tour and Victoria grandmothers have raised an incredible $2 million over the years.
“I care about my sister, grandmothers and what I can do is fundraise because the money that goes doesn’t go to a government,” says Grandmothers for Africa Cycle Tour chair Lynn Kobierski. “It doesn’t go to an NGO, it goes to the grandmothers and the grandmother groups, and that’s what’s so special about this grandmothers to grandmothers campaign.”
All women 55 and older are invited to take part, either riding with the group or separately.
“It is a wonderful community of older cyclists,” Laurie says. “The average age in our cycle tour last year was 70, and it was also the median age, so half of the women doing this are over 70.”
The longest ride is from Campbell River to Victoria, but there are also lots of shorter rides this year.
“From August 13 to September 10, we have eight different rides so people of all different abilities can be part of the cycle tour,” Lynn adds.
For Peggy Frank, who lives with HIV, it’s a cause close to her heart.
“I saw so many people living with HIV that didn’t have the kind of care and support that we have in Canada,” Peggy says. “And I saw them struggling and yet also thriving. They were just amazing people.”
“The promise that we continue to quote is we will not rest until you can rest,” Laurie adds. “Because we thought we can help. We can help with the resources. You’re doing all the heavy lifting and the hard work.”
And for Laurie and the other women, they’re getting so much out of giving back.
“I love the cycling, but I love the community of women who care about each other and I love the cause. I just love the idea that we’re helping strong women in another part of the world as well,” Laurie says.
“It makes it feel like I matter, too,” an emotional Peggy says. “I think that there’s a connection between me and the women in Africa, the children in Africa, and when I do something that helps somebody there, I feel like I’ve done something that makes the world more connected.”