Riders with the Victoria Grandmothers for Africa chapter take a photo break near the Mill Bay ferry terminal during last year’s fundraiser ride from Campbell River to Victoria. Photo contributed

Victoria grandmothers ride the Island to help African orphans

Local group has raised more than $1 million since the first ride

A group of avid cyclists will take off from Campbell River on Friday morning, bound for Victoria and the lawns of the B.C. legislature.

The Victoria Grandmothers for Africa, or VG4A for short, are leading a team of more than a dozen women in their 11th annual fundraiser for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign. That organization raises money to help women in African countries provide for orphaned children left parentless due to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Laurie Wilson, one of the Victoria area riders undertaking the ride, says this year marks a milestone for the local group in that it has surpassed the $1 million raised mark. Not only are these individuals champion fundraisers, she adds, their cycling stamina is remarkable.

“To see how many women in their 60s, 70s, and even in their 80s are fit enough to do this, it’s inspirational for someone like me to know I could be doing this 20 years from now,” said Wilson, who is 61.

Besides the Greater Victoria riders, the team includes residents of up-Island communities, the Gulf Islands and even California, she says.

Wilson describes Grandmothers to Grandmothers as a growing international campaign that operates at the grassroots level to empower women in Africa, especially the 15 countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Funds raised go toward such things as food, school uniforms and tuition for the children, and microloans to the women to allow them to get small businesses off the ground.

In terms of how far donations can go, Wilson says, “a $25 donation would provide school uniforms and food for almost a year for four kids.” The riders in the Island event pay for their food and accommodation, she adds, resulting in all funds raised going directly to the foundation.

The riders are scheduled to reach Qualicum Beach on the first day, stay overnight in Chemainus on the second night and arrive in Victoria on Sunday at the legislature at about 3 p.m. Mayor Lisa Helps will join them for the final two kilometres and proclaim Sunday as Grandmothers to Grandmothers day.

The public is invited to come down and help the riders celebrate their various accomplishments. For more information or to donate, visit victoriagrandmothersforafrica.ca or stephenlewisfoundation.org.

editor@vicnews.com

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