Symbolic bike ride funds new school

Put on by IU’s chapter of Building Tomorrow, which raises money for education infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, the event seeks to raise funds to build a primary school in Uganda. Collectively, the riders seek to ride the 7,710 miles to Kampala, Uganda.  

“It gets people thinking about how far it is to a different country and how you can have such an impact from so far away,” freshman member Nicole Silvernell said.

The event started Monday morning in drizzly, overcast weather with two bikes sheltered under the entrance to the Arboretum at 10th Street and Fee Lane. By 11 a.m., the skies were pouring.

“The weather’s not really cooperating, but it’s positive to see it’s happening,” freshman member Sydney Miller said.

Bike to Uganda will continue through Friday. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, students can ride stationary bikes for a donation of $5 per half hour. Five bikes will be set up today and Thursday at a Ballantine Hall kiosk and Wednesday and Friday at 10th Street and Fee Lane.

When the sun comes out, the group said it intends to have a tent, music and T-shirts for sale. Last year’s shirts sell for $10 and newer shirts sell for $15 and include the bike ride.

“It should make everything more entertaining,” Silvernell said.

Last year about 200 to 300 people participated, said Grant Lin, Building Tomorrow’s IU chapter president. He said the group expects to see at least that amount this year. Due to the inclement weather Monday, few people attended, but the group expects numbers to pick up as the week continues.

“Forty-five thousand is one kid’s education at IU — there’s such a cost difference,” Lin said, noting the price of building a Ugandan school.

The Building Tomorrow organization has 10 schools completed or currently being
constructed, Lin said. The IU chapter has raised about $30,000 so far and expects this to be the last fundraiser for its first school.

Miller said there’s “a cool sustainability factor to it, as dirt from the ground site will be compressed into bricks,” rather than using a kiln.

As a press and mold are used, Lin said the bricks will “fit together like Legos.”

The school will basically be leased to the government for free, Lin said; the government has signed a memorandum with the organization agreeing to provide teachers. The community that receives the school — there is a waiting list — must make its own commitment of 25,000 hours of service, Lin said, in order to assure the project’s success.

Miller said the students eagerly want to learn and that a child who attends school will teach others by drawing in the dirt.

“They want it so much, they won’t take it for granted,” Miller said.

Lin traveled to Uganda his senior year of high school with Key Club International and said he hopes to return to see the site of the group’s future school.

“It’s going to be our school, and it’s their school, too,” Lin said. “It’s something we can all be proud of.”

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