Americans raise Rwf21 million in Genocide awareness bike ride
Three Americans on Thursday started riding more than 200 miles across Rwanda to raise awareness of the 20th anniversary of the Genocide.
David Chaney, Ron Kerr and Fred Zapalac have raised $31,000 (about Rwf21 million) so far for Survivors Fund, a British non-profit that assists Genocide survivors.
They will also be donating three bikes worth $1,000 (Rwf0.68m) to the top three students in the Foundation Rwanda educational programme.
The group left from Gisenyi on Thursday morning and they rode about 35 miles on the first day to Musanze. They will ride about 60 miles each day, passing through Kigali on Friday and ending their trip at Rusumo Falls near the Tanzania border on Sunday.
Their four-day bicycle trip is being led by Rwandan Adventures, a local company that will provide a guide and support on the road.
Chaney first developed the idea of riding a bike across Rwanda shortly after his 39th birthday and his motive was to combine social justice with weight loss.
The Houston-based accountant first came to Rwanda in 2010, after experiences in Uganda and Kenya, to volunteer with the Survivors Fund. The organisation needed someone to help in its accounting department and teach the staff QuickBooks, a bookkeeping software.
Chaney is now a trustee of the non-profit and returns to Rwanda every nine months to check on the Survivors Fund books and teach Genocide orphans accounting.
“I’ve made real friends here, and that’s why I keep coming back,” Chaney said.
At the time of his first trip to Rwanda, Chaney was on a weight loss journey aimed at shedding some of the 320 pounds (about 144kg) he weighed. He took up road cycling to lose 120 pounds.
About two years ago, he weighed 260 pounds. Despite joining Weight Watchers, a weight loss support programme and diligently riding his bike, he was yet to reach his goal weight of 200 pounds (about 90kg).
Chaney knew the 20th anniversary of the Genocide was coming up and he decided to combine his weight loss goals with commemorating the Genocide.
“I was able to combine my passion for working with Genocide survivors with the cycling passion,” he said.
Chaney reached his weight-loss goal in time for his 40th birthday in January and well ahead of his bike ride.
“I’ve been to every country in East Africa except Burundi but Rwanda just stands out,” Chaney said.
“It’s clean and organised with polite and friendly citizens,” he added.