A Williams Lake cycling team of Mark and Tracey Thiessen, Tamara Smith, Elmer Thiessen, Dave Dickson and Ken Brown will ride 220 kilometres Oct. 1 and 2 to raise funds for Rwanda.
Their Lake2Lake ride will raise funds for the Wellspring Foundation education program in Rwanda.
In February, teacher Mark and nurse Tracey returned to Williams Lake from Rwanda, where Mark had been the program director for the Wellspring Foundation for Education, and Tracey volunteered on local health care projects.
Mark and Tracey learned firsthand the work that Wellspring is doing to transform Rwandan schools with the School Development Program that currently works in 41 public schools and impacts over 50,000 children.
Wellspring has worked with twelve Rwandan teacher trainers over the last three years, and these trainers now go out to work with the teachers in the schools. Most recently, the Rwandan government has invited Wellspring’s teacher trainers to train all the school inspectors throughout the country. Mark says the Lake2Lake Ride for Rwanda was launched in memory of Ben Farrant, best friend of Wellspring’s executive director, Richard Taylor, who was killed in 2006 while training for a ride to raise funds for Wellspring. The team’s Lake2Lake ride will begin on the shores of Kalamalka Lake near Vernon, stop for a night on the shores of Shuswap Lake 20 kilometres outside of Salmon Arm, and then circle back to Kalamalka via Silver Creek and the O’Keefe Ranch. Mark and Tracey are pleased that other Williams Lake friends and family have joined them.
“Dave Dickson is fresh off his 800-kilometre Cops for Cancer ride in September and Ken Brown just rode in the Tour de Cariboo raising money for Big Brothers and Big Sisters,” says Tracey. “We are so glad that they are willing to ride in support of another worthy cause.”
Mark’s dad, Dr. Elmer Thiessen, and sister, Tamara Smith, were the first to sign up to join the Williams Lake team. “None of the four of us are very experienced cyclists, but the hours of training are nothing compared to the conditions that Wellspring’s Rwandan teacher trainers deal with every day on the job in their home nation,” Mark says.
“It’s also really fun to train with other members of a team.”
It has been 17 years since the 1994 genocide decimated the entire country of Rwanda including its education system, political stability and health care. The genocide has been compared to three 9/11s every day for 100 days. Since 2004, The Wellspring Foundation for Education has been working with Rwandans to empower a new generation of leaders through education that transforms lives.
“Many children learn in overcrowded classrooms with 60 to 100 students,” Mark says. “Teachers lack certification, ongoing training, resources, and adequate pay. Morale is low and absenteeism is rampant. It’s an overwhelming situation, but there is hope.”
To learn more about the initiatives visit www.thewellspringfoundation.com. To sponsor one of the Williams Lake riders, visit www.lake2lake.org to find out more. Supporters are also invited to attend a fundraising barbecue on Sunday, Sept. 25 12:30 p.m. at the Thiessen’s home at 631 Gibbon St. to enjoy a hot dog or hamburger and hear more about Wellspring’s work or the ride itself, Mark says.