Riders Cycle from Boston to Chicago for Safe Water
Three men cycle 1,200 miles using only open-source water for 2,400 in Lira, Uganda.
Earlier this summer three men cycled from the Atlantic Ocean to Lake Michigan to help over 2,400 rural Ugandans get safe water. The Wheels4Water team used only open water sources and traveled through seven states raising awareness and funds to address the world’s water and sanitation crisis.
Friends Justin Ahrens, Owner of Rule29 Creative, and Brain MacDonald, Owner of Wonderkind Studios, both of Illinois, were joined by Rob and Ryan Connary, Anthony Narducci, and Jose Rivera for the trip, with local riders and supporters providing company and logistical support along the 1,207 mile journey. “We were blown away by all the interest and support shown by friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers once we told them why we were riding,” said Ahrens. “There is definitely a huge community behind the Wheels4Water effort.”
Funds raised support Lifewater International’s work in Lira, northern Uganda. Ahrens resolved to do something about safe water in Uganda after a trip with Lifewater Chief Executive Officer Justin Narducci. “Justin [Ahrens] and I had the opportunity to visit some of the people and communities served by Lifewater firsthand. Justin already had this bike-ride concept percolating in his mind and it was solidified when he saw in person the work that can be done for such a seemingly small amount of money,” said Narducci.
Lifewater International’s current programs in northern Uganda serve communities with water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to help end preventable, water-borne diseases that contribute the cycle of extreme poverty. According to a WHO/UNICEF report in 2014, over 29% of rural Ugandans lack access to safe water and 66% do not have improved sanitation. Lifewater claims to be able to provide sustainable WASH solutions for $40 per person.
Wheel4Water established a goal of raising $40,000 in early 2014, roughly enough money to help one person for each mile they rode. To date they have raised over $100,000, enough to provide water to over 2,400 people. Support came mainly from individuals and businesses moved by the team’s efforts to raise awareness of the problem and their passion to do something. “We are not called to meet every need, but we should act on our convictions. Justin, Brian, and Ryan were convicted about the water and sanitation problem in Lira, Uganda. They are ordinary guys doing something extra-ordinary,” says Narducci.
Ahrens’ and MacDonald’s connection to the cycling and design communities helped build an athletic feat that reached a wide audience, gaining sponsorships from artists, companies, and schools that feel connected to the cause. Ahrens and MacDonald pledged to “ride off” the miles throughout the year, riding an additional mile for each person the campaign helped beyond their original goal. They invited people from all over the country to join them and submit updates and images using the tag @wheels4water.
“We continue to ride simply to show that we have not forgotten that hundreds of people have demonstrated tremendous acts of goodwill on behalf of a community halfway around the world,” says Ahrens.
Wheels 4 Water has begun planning for more events in 2015 and expect wide participation around the country.
Lifewater International is a non-profit Christian water development organization dedicated to effectively serving vulnerable children and families by partnering with underserved communities to overcome water poverty. With experience in more than 40 countries since 1977, Lifewater serves people of all faiths, focusing on contextually appropriate water sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) development. For more information, contact Christine Zurbach (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit www.lifewater.org. Lifewater International is based in San Luis Obispo, CA.