Rachel Fitz had a picture taken with Noella, a Rwandan student who spoke about how much the local girl’s contributions have meant to her village. (Wellspring Foundation/Special to the Langley Advance)

Teen sees first-hand impact of fundraising efforts in Rwanda

An annual fundraising bike ride for Rwandan education happens this Saturday in Fort Langley.

Alex Wilks/Special to the Langley Advance

The number five has proven to be lucky for 16-year-old Rachel Fitz.

As she counts down the days until the fifth annual Rachel’s Ride for Rwanda, she is reminded of the smiling faces of all the children she visited during her recent trip to Rwanda just a few months ago.

“I met a girl named Noella while visiting one of the schools in the Gasabo school district,” Fitz recounted.

“She told me by translator how the money has affected her personally and she was so appreciative of the school kitchen that was built to provide lunches for the students.”

The annual Fort Langley fundraiser was inspired after Fitz and her parents spent three years living in Rwanda doing missionary work alongside a charitable organization called the Wellspring Foundation.

“Their education system is being rebuilt,” Fitz elaborated of the village they visited.

“We’re working to give these children a chance for future generations and to empower them in a new way,” she said, explaining that all the money collected in the local ride is used to support the education system in Rwanda.

The Rubavu district, a rural and agricultural area that borders the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be the site of the next educational project.

“This school district is more challenged,” explained dad, Mark Fitz.

“Due to high volumes of human trafficking and the close proximity to Congo, the girls here are more disadvantaged, enter the sex trade, and are not allowed to go to school.”

While the funds support the salaries of trained teachers, principals, and school trustees, it is also used to help the government develop an educational curriculum, to build separate rooms for the young girls to feel comfortable while in school, as well as to bring any students back to school that were forced to drop out.

The Surrey teen who created Rachel’s Ride for Rwanda has – with a lot of help – already raised more than $70,000 during the past four years to provide a targeted program that focuses on students, teachers, principals and the Ministry of Education in Rwanda.

Her goal this year is to raise between $30,000 to $35,000, beating her $25,000 donation to the cause last year.

“I love that kids are being inspired to put in effort into something that they don’t see first-hand,” she noted.

“Their efforts bring inspiration to kids on another continent, where there are so many disadvantages. These kids are going to grow up to be people who care about humanity,” Fitz said.

And with 87 riders already registered, in comparison to 58 participants last year, pedalling away for the cause this Saturday (June 23), it is clear that community support will only continue to grow.

“The fact that the community is getting together to support education is amazing,” Fitz added.

“People don’t have the same access to education in Rwanda like we have here.”

Cyclists of all ages will bike either a 5.5- or 10.5-km route through Fort Langley’s Fort-to-Fort trial and enjoy a barbecue together at Derby Reach Regional Park following the ride. Information is available online.

“The sky is the limit,” Dad said. “Some of it depends on [Rachel], but she’s very excited for a record turnout and we just want to support her and are happy to go along for the ride.”

RELATED: Cycle through Fort Langley trails pays dividends for Rwandan kids

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Rachel Fitz and her parents Katherine and Mark, were in Rwanda in February to see first hand what the money they’re raising means to the country. (Lorna Rande/Special to the Langley Advance)

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