Cycling Changes lives – The Boy with a giving hand and a Daring heart- 2018

It is difficult to explain, you cannot understand the emotion that comes with cycling 600 kms on the dusty, bumpy roads of Africa in the scorching sun. That was the feeling I had as I rushed to meet up with a group of friends of Amref Health Africa from the Netherlands.

Standing on my tip toes to get a glimpse of the first arrivals as they walked through the lounge glass doors at the Entebbe International airport my heart was beating fast and I had mixed feelings about the next six days of the 1st ever Africa Classic Uganda Challenge.

What is Africa classic Uganda Challenge

This is an event where funds are raised to support Amref Health Africa’s mission of better health change for Africa.  This event is an initiative by Amref flying Doctors in the Netherlands.  A fundraising Office for Amref Health Africa based in Netherlands.  This event is majorly cycling through given African countries where Amref Health Africa implements projects to improve the quality of health of the people of Africa.

What does it take to be part of this event?

If you are to take part in the event you must be willing to cycle 600 Kms for the Uganda challenge and you must be able to raise at minimum of 5000 Euros to support Amref Health Africa’s work in Africa, you should train hard for the event, this is not a cup of tea, you must be healthy and ready to see some very appalling poverty situations in Africa.

That said this event was coming to Uganda for the 1st time with 75 participants and amazingly this time Uganda was privileged to have the youngest participant ever in the event.

As I sought permission to meet out the team inside the arrival lounge my eyes rested on a tall laid back but strong looking young lad. He was rather tall and his body was built up in stature thus in Uganda one would think this young lad is 23 years. However Later I did learn that that is our youngest cyclist and is just 15 years old.

I then decided to that this youngster will be the best person to inspire our young Ugandan generation into using their talents for a good cause that will make a difference in the life of another person.

To date the youth, hold the highest percentage of our population and imagine if this population would use and change their talents, what that change will do to improve our society.

The next day I had an opportunity to be introduced to this youngster officially by my colleague from our Netherlands office, who is also the events coordinator of the same office. After the usually greetings I then settled in to get to know the youngest cyclist better.

Who is this young lad with a sports man’s stature and a heart for Africa?  I asked.

My Name is Bo Senna van Burgsteden  I am 15 years and the only child to both my parents.  My name is Unique and my parents adopted it from a great Brazilian formula one driver.  Bo means beautiful,  it is a unisex name and mostly written the French way ( Beau )

I live in Holland – in a town called Amersfoort, I own a beautiful puppy called Maggie. While I am away my mother will take care of her. Maggie is a great dog.

As Bo Spoke fondly of his puppy you could feel the attachment he has with his beloved puppy.  Like the saying goes Dogs are trusted friends of human beings.

Bo Senna van Burgsteden, talks fondly about his Parents. He told me his parents are divorced but that does not mean he does not enjoy parental care and love.  “I receive a lot of love from both my parents they take great care of me, they both encourage me to excel at what I do and they both supported my participation in the Africa Classic Uganda challenge”.

What made you take such a decision to be part of this fundraising event. 

Maybe I need to let you know a little bit more about my sporting nature and my love for cycling.  I am a professional BMX racer and twice Dutch champ in my age group.

I normal train twice a week but during the winter I have missed training due to an injury after I crashed October 2017 on my mountainbike.

I am also a Kick boxer and I am very good at it.

I am in the last year of my high school, this year I will take a big test, which I am very confident I will pass after which I will join sport-college for a two-year study.

As a sports person I am used to challenges in sports and I saw this as a worthwhile challenge, 1st because I was supposed to raise at least 5000 Euros for me to be accepted in the Challenge, Second I wanted to give help to Africa where so much is needed, yet so little is available for people to get good health, I did not know so much about the Africa health system but the little I had heard was that there is so much need.  Thirdly my Father had participated in the 400 km Africa classic in Tanzania in 2015 and once he shared his life changing experience I wanted to experience that too first hand.  With all these good reasons how could I have not taken on the challenge.

Bo you are rather young and the challenge of raising at least 5000 Euros for you to be accepted in the challenge is a huge hurdle knowing the fact that this is a lot of money in Uganda shillings it is about 22,703,953.39.  I am not so sure we have a youngster your age in Uganda willing to rise that much for any cause.

I had to have a plan, I think the adults kept talking of a strategy to raise the money. So partly my parents supported me through holding small fundraising events with their friends to help me , then I also had to do a door to door home visit in my neighborhood telling them about the challenge and collect money for Amref  and why I have decided to take it on.  I also talked to my schoolmates and classmates, my teachers and together we were able to raise about 10,000 Euros.

For my air ticket and the bicycle both may parents had saved some money for this so I had to buy a new bicycle at about 1000 Euros and other items that were necessary for the trip.

At the end of it all I had a great community support to raise the money so now that I am here I will do my best for all those who supported me in supporting Africa.

After day one of the event; –   How have did you  find the day’s events.

Today I got to visit a Primary school and met up with the children, teachers and other community members. When we arrived the school kids run to the buses, welcomed us while clapping hands and walked to us. Soon I had a child holding my hand and walking me to the tent. This was very unique; in my school it would be different.  The songs and short drama were good but my mind kept drifting to the challenge at hand and the heat was starting to get warmer.

Later in the Afternoon at Great outdoor camp site we were flagged off, the track was good, the sun was high in the sky’s and it was really hot but it was a great start. The country side and the warm smiles and waving from the village flocks made it so memorable.

As the night set in at the Great outdoor camp site, and my short update with Bo ended we both moved to our tents for the night, the camp site is found in Luwero district, Bamunanika sub county and in the night the tall lash trees sway their branches as the cyclists had their second night sleep in Uganda.

At the crack of dawn, you could hear the forest birds and the low voices of the cyclists as they woke up to start their second track to Luwero town.

I checked out on Bo, he looked excited and he was supporting some of his team members with a few last minutes’ bicycle checks.  Bo seemed to have trained hard and well for this challenge and his teammates including his father seamed to count a lot on his support.

Day 3  the Track to Luwero town council.

How was your experience Bo?  Now that you have done an even longer track about 90 Km.

It was hot, long dusty roads leading to nowhere, but it was not dangerous, I loved the short breaks for water and fruit. This l looked forward to, However the life in the village centers is amazing these people seem to be leading their lives even when they seem to have nothing.  It is very touching for me this is my first time to see this kind of poverty.  How do they live, take their children to school?  I do not know.

The visit to the district hospital was amazing, I have never been able to hold a new born baby.  But today I did and even was given the opportunity to name the baby boy.  So now there is a little boy named  Bo in Uganda.  This was the highlight of my day.

I look forward to a good shower and then I will check my team member’s bicycles and I think our team is doing very well however I am worried about my Dad.  He is not holding up well with the heat. He told me he feels very hot and needs a lot of water.  I am hoping the heat will reduce I really want him to cycle with me.

 Day 4 – Track to Rhino Sanctuary

What was the most exciting event on this track?

 Today was tough, going up the hills and the marram tracks had sand.  You know cycling in sandy tracks is very challenging because the bicycle tires are not made for very sandy tracks.  But it is a challenge so we took it in our stride and here we are at the finish. It was very hot today and this time we saw fewer people, the track was more of scrubs and and burnt fields.  This was a rather frustrating track.  The sand entered my nose and I had a bit of nose bleeding but our good Doctor was in time to support me.

I was so worried about Daddy the heat was too much for him.  However, I am glad I arrived at the camp site and I have been lucky to see a white Rhino or Rhinos up close. who gets such an opportunity? Do you see this beautiful bangle one of our team members bought for each one of us?  It is engraved with a Rhino.  This is my souvenir for life.

You know the beauty with the tracks so far, they are tough but we end with a very full feeling activity, for example the White Rhino tracking and the outdoor camping in the sanctuary next to the Rhinos.  Who gets to do that!

Day 4 track to Masindi District

I sought out Bo, during the actual cycling just to see how he was doing on the track.  it seemed longer, the heat was unbearable and the challenge was getting tough as fatigue set in.

The sight I saw will forever live with me, Bo was holding on to his Dad’s bicycle, pushing it alongside his as his Dad, scammed to the heat, however like any father not giving up as his son helped to try and make it bearable.  This was to me the best sight of father and Son and this time around the son supporting his father to reach the campsite.

Once we arrived at the camp and Bo had gotten some rest, at our daily catch up I asked him how he felt supporting his father as the heat drained his strength.  He said he felt proud he could do that for his Dad, in his own words “he is a great father, he has encouraged me and supported me in my life, I am happy I did this for him.  He also feels so glad that I could do that and this event has made us even more of friends than ever before.

What did you make of the medical camp visit?

It was short but it had very useful information most of my team mates liked it most but for me the hospital visit was the best.

My best highlight for the day were the letters l got from home.  These messages made me stronger and everyone was happy they made a decision to come for the challenge.

Day 5 –  Murchison track

What was so different about this track, Bo did you see or feel any different from what you have seen so far?

This track was more flat and then downhill, the heat was unbearable, however the chimps on the road side where a good sight, the village at the lake shores and the men cycling along with us with bags on I am not so sure what it was were good company.  The villagers also cheered us along.

I did take a break off my bicycle to see the lake shores and visited one of the homestead along the lake. It was so close to the lake and rather not safe at all.  But the villagers seamed contented.  The hut I visited only had a few items and a water pot but this was a family house.  The abject poverty in this area is saddening.  Where we had our water and fruit break the children in the classrooms almost had nothing some sat on the floor others on stones where others were studying under tree shades.

I think this experience has totally changed my thinking and taking some many things that I have in life for granted.  These children have nothing.

Day seven (7) Pakuba track.

 This is the last day and you have done very well what do you look back to on this track.  I heard it was very eventful.

Ooh My God!  the ferry broke down just before we arrived at the southern bank of Lake Victoria, we had to wait for some time so that meant we would miss out on some animals in the park and the heat would have increased.

That is what happened it was extremely hot, the track was short but very hot so we had to take a break in the part which was risker but we all could not handle the heat at that point we needed to take a break in a shade.

However, before that the scariest part was the huge Elephant that stayed close to the track.  We had to be stopped and the rangers tried all they could to scare it away from the track including shooting in the air.  It was about 15 mins before it moved away from the track then we continued.  I did record every moment of this on my phone.  I will play it back to my friends, teachers and Mom once I get home.  This was scary some of my group members were thinking of turning back.

Meeting up with the Amref Chief was great he was very happy that I took on the challenge and we had some photos taken together.

His speech, I saw some adults get emotional, I also felt I have used my talent for a very worthwhile cause.  I may come back after some years.  I will be older then and I will try to bring some of my friends too.

Seeing the amount of money collected on the last day was amazing, the party was great and the campsite at Red chill was also nice.

Day 8 – track back to Entebbe by bus.

Did you stop over at the Murchison falls?

Yes, I did it was beautiful, I have never been so close a strong waterfall like that.  I have taken photographs and the sound of the water will always be in my memory.  However, the drive to Entebbe was long and tiring, I feel a bit sick at the end but I will be fine.

“I will forever treasure this memory and I have a lot to tell to my Mum, friends and teachers, it was worth the time, sweat, blood and fatigue.  The cause I have supported, friends I have made, the people I have met, the memories I have I  will forever cherish” .

Those were Bo Senna van Burgsteden, parting words as he entered the check in point at Entebbe International airport to catch his flight back home.

Bo Senna Van Burgsteden, used his skill and love for cycling to raise funds to support the health care system in Africa at only 15 years he was the 1st ever youngster to take on a 600 KM marram track in the history of the Africa classic challenge.  That is history made and a milestone reached.  If he can do it so can you.  You do not have to be a cyclist but you can use your skills to create the change that you want to see for better life in Africa.


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