Cycling for health in the shadow of the Kilimanjaro

A team of big-hearted Dutch riders tackle sun, dust and rugged terrain to raise money for Amref


Eighty-eight cyclists from the Netherlands on Sunday set off on a 400km, six-day adventure at the foothills of the Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, determined to raise funds for Amref Health Africa’s work. This was the sixth edition of the Africa Classic (previously named Kenya Classic), which has so far raised over €2.5 million. This year, the participants have already raised €600,000.

The event, which runs from October 9 to 15, was flagged off at the Kia lodge in Kilimanjaro by the Tanzanian Permanent Secretary for Health, Dr Mpoki  Ulisubisya. He thanked the cyclists for their sacrifice and generosity in travelling all the way to Tanzania to help improve the health of the Tanzanian people.

“This is a wonderful partnership that brings the people of the Netherlands and Tanzania together.  I am inspired by Amref’s work. The Ministry of Health has a good working relationship and synergy with Amref, and I am happy that we are doing this together,” said the Dr Mpoki. He added: “In Africa we say that if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, then go with others. This is what we are doing with Amref.”

Amref Group CEO Dr Githinji Gitahi thanked Amref’s supporters in the Netherlands for their generous support of the organisation’s work. He noted that the 2016 Africa Classic had broken the fundraising record of the event, and explained that the money would go towards improving the health of mothers and children.

“Every year, 600 women die in pregnancy and childbirth every day. In Tanzania, 20 women die daily from the same complications. What you are doing this week is for the African woman.”
 

Also present were the chair of Amref’s advisory council in Tanzania, Dr Eric van Praag, and Amref’s Country Director in Tanzania, Dr Florence Temu.

The riders this year range in age from 15 to 65, with careers varying from students to retirees, and from bakers to financial consultants. The Africa Classic gives them an opportunity to enjoy the scenic African countryside as they cycle and to interact with beneficiaries of the projects they support. On the first day, the riders interacted with post-test club members at the Bondeni dispensary in Moshi.

Why we chose to join the Africa Classic:
Father and Daughter
Roan Bosman, 15, the youngest rider in the group, and her father, Fred Bosman: "I have a good life in the Netherlands and I want to do something to help the people here to improve their health,. That is why I came." Dad agrees: "Everyone in the world should have good health care.”

Oldest rider
Gerard Kalsbeek: I retired last month after 40 years as a family doctor. For my retirement gift, I asked my patients to pay for me to participate in the Africa classic. My family also sponsored me to celebrate my 5th birthday. On my own I have managed to raise US$16,000. I am supporting Amref because it does good work and I would like to support it.

Mum’s influence
Joanne ‘t Lam is 17. Her mother, Nicole, works with Amref in the Netherlands. Joanne is riding with her father. “I am excited about meeting the people who benefit from Amref’s projects and to see where the money we are raising will go. I am curious to see what the situation is really like on the ground.”

Four-time participant
Marjolein Jongeling, a teacher, is taking part in the event for the fourth time. “I love Africa, I love mountain biking and I love the work that Amref is doing. I am happy to do something for a country that still needs a lot of help. It is a wonderful experience to see what Amref is doing with the money that we raise.

Brother and sister duo
Marieke Oosterhof is a manager in a health insurance firm and her brother, Rensen van der Hiede, is a financial consultant: “Our brother died of cancer three years ago. We know that health is very important. He told us that there were things he regretted not doing in his life and so we are doing this in his honour.”

Avid Amref Supporter
Joan Ympa worked with KLM in Nairobi and interacted with Amref Health Africa a few years ago. “I love to see that we can save so many women and children through programmes to bring clean water to the villages. There is also social improvement because the water wells are meeting points for the women, and here they can talk about health. Amref is also doing good work to fight FGM and HIV, so I want to support.