Vancouver Island grandmothers helping orphans in Africa

A decade of local support for African grandmothers raising grandkids.

Joanne Lomax and many other riders in the annual Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign

Rain or shine, around 30 cyclists ages 55 plus will be cycling 275 kilometres from Campbell River to Victoria as part of the Victoria Grandmothers for Africa Cycling fundraiser.

The ride, being held in September but the fundraising effort begins now, isn’t just any old cycling pleasure trip.

It’s a ride to raise money for the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

The money raised will go towards providing assistance to African grandmothers raising their AIDS-affected grandchildren.

This is the 10th year the ride is taking place and there will be two rides — a 275 kilometre one and a 50 kilometre one for those who may not be able to do the longer ride.

This year there are around 30 women participating in the ride, with some joining in from up-Island.

“It’s friendships that you’ll have for your whole life,” said Saanich Peninsula resident Joanne Lomax, who did the ride for two years and now is in charge of publicity for Victoria Grandmothers.

All riders have to pay for their own accommodation. The cyclists have been busy the last few months with their campaigns for donations.

Last year $70,000 was raised, and this year, the goal is to top that.

Lomax said the women are incredibly fit and all are over 55 years of age (the requirement to participate).

Every Monday, rain or shine, the women cycle, beginning with 30 kilometre rides and working their way up to 70 kilometres.

They will be riding in a series of two rehearsal rides in August, 100 kilometres each, back to back.

“It’s the test to see if you’re ready,” said Lomax.

The actual ride itself takes place September 9 to 11 and the women will arrive in Victoria at the legislature at 2:45 p.m. on the 11th.

Lomax said the arrival is a big deal, with hundreds of people there to greet the riders, a band playing and more.

Lomax herself is unable to participate in this year’s ride, but said every bit counts when it comes to donating money.

She fostered a little girl three years ago from Uganda whose parents died of HIV. By donating just $35 a month, the young girl was able to receive food, clothing, education and medical attention. Lomax said after correspondence today, that same little girl is now at the top of her class.

“What people can do with just a minimal amount of money is phenomenal. It can change their life,” she said.

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