Cumbrian couple’s 1,000 mile bike ride aids African school children

Cumbrian couple’s 1,000 mile bike ride aids African school children

A 1,000-mile cycle ride from the English Lake District to Italy’s Lake Garda is helping to provide African schoolchildren with one of the basics for learning – desks.

Jamie Hodge, research development manager at the University of Cumbria, spent a chunk of the late summer cycling with wife Sophie, who works for the Diocese of Carlisle, raising funds for Dedza Local Authority School. Their fundraising figure has already topped £1,600.

Earlier this year the couple visited the small town of Dedza, in Malawi, to see the ongoing work at an orphanage, the Molima Family Home, which they support through the Orfund charity.

The orphans – many of whom have lost their parents to AIDS – attend the local primary school but have to sit on earthen floors for their lessons. Orfund have previously funded classroom improvements and now Jamie and Sophie want to take that further.

Jamie said: “Cycling is a hobby, a means of commuting to work from Penrith to Carlisle, or sometimes Ambleside, and keeps me fit. This summer I persuaded my other half Sophie that we should undertake a grand Lake2Lake cycle tour from the shores of Ullswater in Cumbria to Lake Garda, Northern Italy.

“We support the Molima Family Home orphanage for 30 children, and on a recent trip there we visited some of the children’s schools. The majority of the classrooms had no proper desks, minimal lighting, and very little of anything to aid their learning.

“We want to use our Lake2Lake adventure as an opportunity to raise money for the Dedza Local Authority School, so that they can buy new desks for the children. Currently only 25 per cent of school children make it to secondary school.”

The trip has been described as a ‘great success’.

Jamie said: “We cycled through an incredibly diverse range of places: alongside coal fired power stations and through the world's largest chemical complex, to UNESCO World Heritage Sites and pristine alpine mountains and lakes.

“People were consistently welcoming and generous. Some students invited us for a river trip on their college-owned punt and someone else made us a surprise plum cake for breakfast. Fuelled by pastries, pizza and the kindness of others we made it safe and sound to Lake Garda, feeling incredibly grateful to be able to travel freely and to make the most of opportunities afforded to us by our education.

“We hope that in a small way, and through all the people who donated, that a greater number of children in Malawi may also have better opportunities through their education.”

The route Jamie and Sophie, from Penrith, carefully planned included scaling Hartside and the Pennines to Newcastle before taking a ferry to Amsterdam. In mainland Europe, they travelled along the Rhine River through Germany before going over the Alps into Austria, Switzerland, and Italy. They travelled light and cycled around 50-60 miles each day.

To support the Hodges’ ‘Lakes to Lakes’ challenge, visit www.give.net/lakestolakes.