Our Q & A with Andrea Dowd....
How did you first hear about Team Rwanda?
I first heard about the team when I was planning my trip to Rwanda on vacation. I am an avid cyclist, and when I approached the company “Inspired Journeys” there was an option to ride with a member from the National Rwandan cycling team. That really caught my interest and thus I investigated further going onto their website to learn more about the team.
What interested you about the team?
Living in North America I feel we take things for granted, we have clean drinking water, abundance of food, and freedom. After hearing about the team members surviving the genocide of 1994, it made me realize how lucky my life is, as I did not have to endure such a horrible event. The athletes inspired me, as although they had been through so much, they still had the courage to move on with their lives, through their passion of cycling.
What motivated you to host a fundraiser?
I learned about the movie “ Rising from the Ashes” on the Team Rwanda's website and rented it. Words cannot explain how moved I was by this movie and the athletes. I decided that I could host a fundraiser, it can’t be that hard.
Tell us a bit about how you organized your event?
Once I set my mind to organizing the fundraiser, I contacted Kimberly Coats, Director of Marketing for Team Rwanda, to see if I could use the movie. I felt that it is such an incredible story that needs to be heard. I then wrote letters to send to a printer, graphic designer, theater and stores (to use for door prizes) explaining what my plan was. I would show the movie, put posters up around the city that the graphic designer and printers donated. I then decided to contact the author of a book called “Road Trip Rwanda” to see if he would come and talk prior to the movie showing.
How did you find such an amazing Rwandan guest? Tell us a little bit about him and what he thought about the film?
Jean Claude is a character from the book “Road Trip Rwanda”; he is a genocide survivor and raced bikes back before the racing bike came to Rwanda. When I wrote the editor of the book to see if the writer “Wil Ferguson” could speak at the event, she contacted me and said Wil couldn’t make it but Jean Claude could. It was such exciting news due to his life in Rwanda before the genocide and during. I learned so much about the country and what a bicycle meant to those who lived there. Jean Claude explained that a bicycle gave a person freedom to escape into another country during the genocide, and the bike meant you lived. A bike meant that instead of 4 hrs to get 40L of water for your village it took 30 mins, which decreased the time that clean drinking water was available for the people. Jean Claude thought the movie was beautifully done, and it brought back a lot of memories. He ended up borrowing the movie to show his kids (who were born in Canada and only through their dad are they aware of the genocide).
What were people’s reactions?
The people who attended the movie loved it; the movie opened their eyes to life outside safe North America. There were young kids that came to the event and their parents wanted the kids to see that not everyone has the privileges that they do. Some of the people at the movie were born way after the genocide occurred, and had been clueless to what it even was. The movie made people contemplate their lives and their “ first world problems”. Most said they needed to re-evaluate their lives and what is important to them and their families. Everyone loved it and was so inspired by it, they wanted to either donate more or learn more about the team.
Did you have a Q & A at the end?
Unfortunately we only had the venue for 3 hrs so we were tight on time. Jean Claude and I stayed at the end for any questions people had.
Give us one or two things people said that made it so impactful?
I think the biggest thing people said were they are not going to complain about their lives anymore. There are going to appreciate the smaller things in life, like time with family and friends. Next time something doesn’t go their way they are going to think about the cycling team in the movie, and try not to complain too much.
Is there anything you would do differently on your next Team Rwanda Fundraiser?
Yes, I wish I wrote something about the fundraiser for the local paper to place in the weekend edition. I wish I had put the poster I made in the entertainment section to reach more people. I lastly wish I had approached more cycling clubs and spin studios to advertise the event to their members.
Any advice for those who think they can’t do a fundraiser?
I think the biggest thing is to go out there and “try”, you will be amazed at how many people want to be involved and help such a worthy cause. I never imagined how successful I would be in the end, but I just went out and did it. It feels really good to help people who don’t have opportunities that we do living in a developed nation. “The sky is the limit, and anything is possible if you set your mind to it”.