A World without Poverty

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Stickers for kids and young at heart

A few days before the start of the Sea to Sea tour my greatest concern was that the ride would be over too fast. Not that nine and a half weeks is a short block of time to be away from home. Somehow the uniqueness of the experience leaves me dreading the end. Reaching Halifax will signal the end.

Circus Life

As one person commented recently, “This is what it must be like to live in a circus.” It’s like leaving my real life behind for a whole summer. The real life with it’s responsibilities of paying bills, looking after the yard, weeding the garden and all the other things that make up day to day living.

Oh, yes, don’t forget to go to work five days a week if one is still in that phase of life.

Instead, I’m living the simple yet luxurious life.

Simple in that I have a basket of clothes that I keep laundered by hand, set up and take down my tent as needed each day, and then focus on getting to the next camp site and do it all over again.

Luxurious in that every day I have breakfast and supper prepared for me. All I need to do is walk up to the table, have my plate filled and find a place to sit down and eat it. In exchange I simply need to do one task for the whole group each day.

Moving Billboard

Each day that I ride, along with a few dozen other cyclists, I have no idea what variations I’ll experience in my day. It’s the chance meetings that turns our riding into a moving billboard. A motorist on the highway or a pedestrian in a small town will have seen several cyclists in identical gear. At some point their curiosity gets the better of them.

When the curiosity overflows the question gets popped. What is going on? Where are you going? Why are you riding?

How I answer the question depends on how the inquiring person strikes me. In a Mac Donalds in Baudette, Michigan some seniors were very intrigued. As I was explaining that we had been riding since June 26 from Vancouver they were impressed. They were complimentary about me as a 64 year old riding all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia. They dismissed the idea that they were past the age of joining in on such a venture. When I told them our oldest rider is 81 and three quarters their jaws just dropped.

It’s only when a person asks why we are riding will I mention that we are riding to raise money to End the Cycle of Poverty. I will then give them a sticker of a bicycle with a heart. The heart is a great symbol. A heart for an adventure that involves an intimate connection with a bicycle, and an even greater heart to help the poor.

Other times, when I see a parent with a young child or two I’ll stop and tell them I have a sticker for them. As a former teacher I know that kids love stickers. I’ve also learned that adults will get just as excited to receive a sticker.

The end in sight give Hope

Cycling across the continent each day can sometimes be grueling. However, we know that at some point we will reach camp. Just keep pedaling. If things get really tough we know we can get a SAG vehicle to bring us in. A broken down bike, an injury along the way does not spell disaster. We have a way out. And a convenient one at that.

For many living in poverty, there is no end in sight. Each day is a struggle. Each day brings with it the possibility of unknown challenges. And worst of all, an injury, a breakdown of something essential could very easily spell disaster. For many people they are not living with a safety net of a SAG type vehicle that will ‘airlift’ them to a place of help.

Help

As I am hearing some of the presentations by Partners Worldwide I am learning that it is an agency that is working with a model that is very attainable and can easily be replicated. Their tag line is “Business People Faithfully Pursuing a World without Poverty”.

Does it sound like a dream? Only in that all good ideas start out as a dream. They are making the dream a reality in so many different ways.

Because they are business people they are not interested in giving handouts. Handouts create dependency if the support doesn’t go beyond that step. Also, their model would also not be described as a hand up. They are committed to ending the cycle that is holding so many people down.

As business people they work with a viable business model. As such that means providing families with the resources needed to give them hope by helping them leave behind a spirit of defeat, a spirit of poverty. This means providing individuals with micro-loans, advocacy, education, skill development and mentors or any combination of these supports.

At times the support is providing a loan and teaching the skills needed to raise a crop that has a viable market. Other times it involves securing proper land ownership so the family have a place to farm needed crops. Other times it’s setting a family up with equipment and a market for small scale home manufacturing.

The possibilities are only limited by one’s imagination. Each project is designed to ensure a high success rate. Each successful venture becomes the model for other members in the community to imitate and work their way out of poverty.

The beauty of the work done by Partner’s Worldwide is that it costs on average $150 per person to help a family out of poverty. That means financial poverty. That means poverty of spirit. With each success another family is making a positive contribution to their community. The outcome is a spirit of generosity as they in turn are motivated to help others.

Dreading the End

This ‘circus of a ride’ while it seems like an unreal world to be living in will come to an end for me on August 29. However, this ‘circus of a ride’ has been a further eye opener for me that working to eradicate poverty is not a hopeless venture. It is attainable.

In that way, this experience does not end for me on August 29. I pray that in some way the 56 days of cycling is only a prelude to further understanding and working on ways to end the cycle of poverty, both in Canada and in developing parts of the world.

Poverty, at heart is an issue of justice. It comes down to resource distribution. When families are deprived of access to resources because of corporate greed or war. It beats people down to a point where they are at risk of losing all hope.

We have the eyes to see. We have the means to bring change. We need the will make that happen.

In other words, there should be no end to my ride experience. Rather a precursor to instill in me a greater spirit of generosity.

 

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Gratitude and Opportunity

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“Kiza adds colour to this place”

Looking for Wifi

I had gone to Subway in Transcona when I was visiting Winnipeg. I planned to take advantage of their free WiFi with no intent to buy anything. After standing outside the restaurant with my cell phone for 15 minutes I decided to inconspicuously take a seat inside.

I was greeted by one of the workers who wondered where I was from. He had seen the bicycle when I leaned it against the window. He told me he had never been outside of Winnipeg and wanted to know the best place in Canada to visit.

After chatting with  him off and on for a half hour he offered me a bowl of cream of mushroom soup. I had initially declined the offer as I had ended the day with a good supper. I changed my mind and told him I would love some. I offered to pay for it but he told me the soup would have been thrown out because they were closing for the night.

I decided I would put up a thank you facebook post of his gesture of generosity. He clearly wasn’t offering the soup because I was a good client. There was a different motivation.

Kiza’s story

To do the facebook post I asked for his name. Now I knew I had been speaking with Kiza. His name intrigued me. Turns out he is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). His parents had fled for their lives from DR Congo due to political unrest, and Kiza had been born in a refugee camp.

At age two Kiza’s parents left him with his grandparents and moved on to another refugee camp where they figured their opportunity to get sponsorship was better. Once his parents arrived in Winnipeg his parents made application to get Kiza to Canada. Kiza wasn’t reunited with his parents till he was nine years old.

During the time that Kiza was in a refugee camp he already valued education. He arrived in Canada speaking Swahili, Bengali and French. His command of English was impressive because I found him easy to understand.

Kiza’s experience in the refugee camp taught him several life lessons. He recalls his father skimping on food so Kiza and his brothers would be able to eat. He told me that when you have little means, family is everything. The second thing he told me is that when you have little means you smile a lot.  We’re smiling because once you stop smiling you have nothing. If you lose your spirit you have no future.

When I met Kiza he had just graduated from high school and was very pleased to have been accepted into university. He was working his summer job to save up for his tuition fees.

To help save up for university he had been cycling to work. Initially it took him an hour but over time he reduced his commuting time to twenty minutes. On top of that he arrives at work feeling energized. Having biked almost halfway across Canada I could certainly relate to that.

Opportunity

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A free high school education is helping me realize my dream.

Kiza is overjoyed at being accepted into university. He appreciated the free education offered through high school. His acceptance into university was a very important stepping stone towards realizing his dreams. The fact that his education through high school was free made him even more appreciative of the Canadian educational system, because, as he sees it, it opens up opportunities for anyone who has dreams.

His goal after completing his university degree is to help rebuild DR Congo. He wonders whether that is dreaming too big. There is so much that needs to be done to rebuild DR Congo. The problems are many and he wonders how someone can even figure out where to start.

I assured him that one can never dream too big. Dreaming too small will result in short changing himself and lead to disappointment. Keep dreaming big and stay focused. Dream big and share the dream.

His sense is that it is best to start with the next generation. He thinks promoting education and making it available is the best place to start. Ensure that all children receive basic literacy.  He wants young people to expand their education to include learning trades like electrician so they can help rebuild their country while at the same time develop a sense of satisfaction.

Kiza proudly shares that he is motivated out of a sense of appreciation for the opportunities that Canada is giving him. He’s not looking for a hand out. That’s the furthest from his mind. His motivation comes out of a sense of hope because deep down he believes that he can make a difference.

Chantel, Kiza’s co-worker at Subway, appreciates him for the colour he adds to the place. She says it with a chuckle realizing the double meaning.

When Kiza shares his dreams his excitement is infectious. Even as a teen he lives with a clear idea of what his priorities are. His toughest choice at this time is between helping his family when they need something and getting his tuition money together.

Kiza is one of three people I know who have been displaced because of the war in DR Congo. All three are focused on finding ways to help their country recover from the political strife and assist in the rebuilding of their nation. Seeing his love and dedication for his country, a land that he has never seen, prompted me to share a book with him.

Connections

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I want every child in DR Congo to receive basic literacy.

The book is titled Still With Us: Msenwa’s Untold Story of War, Resilience and Hope. I met Msenwa Oliver Mweneake shortly after he arrived in Canada. He shares a story that involves twice fleeing from DR Congo. Despite that he lives with a strong conviction that God has a purpose for him, a purpose to help rebuild his beloved country.

It was an honour to meet Kiza. The whole time he was talking to me, he was busy doing the daily end of the day clean up. While he talked his hands never stopped working.

Hearing Kiza’s story I more clearly understood why he could not just dump the cream of mushroom soup. When someone lives with a spirit of generosity, sharing in the plenty is a natural response.

Even though Kiza is living in an economically struggling home, he does not live with a spirit of poverty. Poverty is not part of his vocabulary.

Kiza is clearly motivated by gratitude, appreciation and the belief that he has the personal resources to make a difference.