In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Project Rwanda

Posted 2/13/2008 by Grant Mitchell

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Remarks I gave in the Senate today:

I would like to recognize the exceptional work being done by Project Rwanda, a non-profit organization dedicated to economic development in Rwanda. Its initiatives focus on the bicycle. In fact, the project is relying on the bicycle to help revive the Rwandan economy. Tom Ritchey founded the project out of his passion for cycling and the stories of hope he heard from the Rwandan people when he visited Rwanda in 2005. He imagined that bicycles could play an important role in rebuilding the country and in rebuilding national pride.

He founded Ritchey Cycling, an internationally renowned business. His good friend, Alex Stieda, a Canadian from Edmonton, worked closely with him on this project. Mr. Stieda was the very first North American to wear the yellow jersey in the Tour de France.

There are four main parts to Project Rwanda. First, its mission is to design and develop bicycles adapted to the specific needs of the country. Bicycles are still beyond the reach of the majority of Rwandans. Wooden bicycles can be found all over. They are used to transport vegetables, wood and coffee cherries. The coffee bike was designed by Project Rwanda. These bikes enable coffee producers to manage their transportation infrastructure.

The second part aims to increase awareness for Rwanda as a cycling destination. Thanks to its developing eco-tourism industry, Rwanda hosts the Wooden Bike Classic every year. This is a multi-day event attended by cyclists from all over the world.

The third part of the project is to train and sponsor a national cycling team, which competes internationally.

The final part is to distribute bikes to needy organizations. This program is based on a micro-financing mechanism. The bike is an affordable, practical, environmentally friendly solution to local transportation and hauling needs worldwide.

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