Vancouver Island University’s local World University Service of Canada (VIU-WUSC) held their third annual Bike for Aids fundraiser on Oct. 25. Students cycled on stationary bikes and collected pledges and donations to support WUSC’s national campaign to purchase bike ambulances for the rural communities in Malawi affected by HIV and AIDS.
Ryan Butler, a co-organizer of the event says that VIU-WUSC raised $602.81 in donations and will receive additional funding from pledges in the following weeks.“In Malawi there are a lot of underdeveloped roads in rural communities and they don’t have access to medical care. By buying bike ambulances they will have better access to health practitioners and vice versa,” Butler says. “In that sense we can reduce the impact of AIDs. It’s not a cure but we are doing the best we can to mitigate the problem.”
He adds that bike ambulances are simply a bicycle fitted with a trailer and removable stretcher which allows patients to be transported along underdeveloped roads. Butler says that the cost of a bike ambulance is $500 and $200 for a bike that practitioners can use to reach communities. WUSC has partnered with the Canadian African Partnership to ensure that bikes are purchased and maintained locally which helps contribute to their local economy.
Celia White, co-chair of VIU-WUSC, was astounded with the amount of student support and energy. She noted that the bike designated for drop-in participation had been occupied for most of the morning.
“Awareness is a huge part. We are raising money for bike ambulances in rural Malawi so the most important part is to receive bike ambulances but another really important factor is consciousness of people in the VIU community,” White says.
“We are spreading awareness that there can be simple solutions for problems that seem unpreventable,” she adds. White says that it is also great to see students getting active by biking, making donations, and spreading awareness about WUSC.
Tamera Rogers, a VIU student, participated by cycling on the drop-in bike. “I saw the tents and I saw some friends and they offered a 15 minute bike ride and I was very happy to take part,” Rogers says. “It was really fun and a really pleasant 15 minutes of exercise that I probably wouldn’t get otherwise.”
In addition to putting on fundraisers such as Bike for Aids, VIU-WUSC sponsors student refugees and covers their educational and living expenses for their first year. Butler and White note that many executive members in VIU-WUSC will be graduating this academic year and encourage students who are interested in WUSC to attend one of their meetings. Meetings are held Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. in bldg. 250 rm. 140.