A Surrey teenager is changing lives in the African country of Rwanda thanks to her bright idea and big heart.
Rachel Fitz, 14, of Birdland lived in the East African country’s capital city of Kigali for three years with her Christian missionary parents, who were working with a Langley-based charity called Wellspring Foundation for Education.
She’d watch the local children walk by their house every day on their way to school.
“The kids were barefoot, they didn’t have much, they lived in like slums with tin roofs and stuff,” the Grade 8 student recalled.
When her family returned to Surrey, Rachel volunteered to help at Wellspring’s Lake2Lake bike race in support of Rwandan schools and thought if grown-ups can do this, why not children?
So in June 2014 she started Rachel’s Ride for Rwanda, organizing a bike ride fundraiser for children in which eight riders cycled the Fort-to-Fort route in Langley and raised $5,600 in pledge donations to help train teachers in Rwanda.
In July 2015, 59 riders, among them 36 children, raised more than $19,000 during Rachel’s Ride and the donation target for this year’s ride, again along the Fort-to Fort trail, is $25,000.
The ride will be held Saturday (July 9) at Derby Reach Regional Park, from 9:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Currently pledges are $8,233, or 33 per cent complete. Participating bicyclists can chose to ride either five or 10 kilometres.
So far 40 riders are registered, ages five to 62, and 40 volunteers are helping out.
Rachel’s mother, Katherine, said she and her husband Mark are proud “as a family to support Rachel’s dream.”
Mark echoed that. “Every year I get more and more proud of that girl,” he told the Now.
Rachel wants to keep the annual fundraiser going indefinitely.
“Hopefully every year,” she says.
“It was really interesting, seeing a different culture,” she said of Rwanda, one of Africa’s smallest countries with a population of roughly 11 million people.
“I’d like to live there again; maybe not permanently.”
Rwanda is probably best known for the 1994 genocide, from April to July, in which members of the Hutu majority government slaughtered as many as 800,000 Tutsis before the Rwandese Patriotic Front, led by Tutsis, wrested control from the Hutu nationalists, in turn creating more than two million refugees.
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