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Cycle with New Westminster grandmas to help African grandmas

Put on your cycling shorts, and train for a 100 km-ride fundraiser organised by Royal City Gogos — a group of 55 New West-based grandmothers who are raising money for African grandmothers caring for children orphaned by AIDS. 

This Grandparents’ Day — Sept. 11, 2022 — celebrate your gran and gramp with extra hugs, and then step out to ride your cycle in support of a group of grandmothers who are 13,000 kilometres away.

By registering for Solidarity Cycle, the annual fundraiser by the Royal City Gogos — a New Westminster-based group of grandmothers who support African grandmothers caring for children orphaned by AIDS — you get to help out someone in need in a different continent, while enjoying a leisurely ride.

Sweet deal, right? It gets sweeter.

“Our cyclists say it's the only ride where you gain weight by the end of it,” said Janine Reid, who founded Royal City Gogos in 2009.

“We start them [the participants] off with a breakfast, and we meet them at the 25-km mark for, usually, watermelon, power bar, water, that kind of thing.”

This is followed by lunch (which will be catered by Green's and Beans Deli this year), ice cream and a barbecue in the evening.

“At each of those stops, various grandmother groups from across our region will turn out with homemade food and their pom poms,” added Reid. 

What's different at Solidarity Cycle this year?

Royal City Gogos (Gogo stands for grandmother in Zulu, a language spoken in southern Africa) started Solidarity Cycle six years ago as a 100-km cycling event from White Rock to Chilliwack. Today, the event gets participants from cities beyond New West including North Vancouver, Tsawwassen, Vancouver, and so on. 

This year, according to the event website, the ride will start at 13479 Sharpe Rd. in Pitt Meadows.

The 100-km ride will be divided into two segments: a 50-km loop in the morning, and a different 50-km loop in the afternoon, starting and ending on Sharpe Road. “​Imagine a figure 8,” reads the description on the website, referring to the riding path. 

Participants can either choose to ride the entire 100-km distance, or do a 50-km loop.

Even those who don’t want to commit to a distance can still join.

“This year is the first time we offer to have people who would choose to ride their own distance, and come with younger children if they like,” said Reid. 

With about 30 cyclists participating every year, the event has raised a total of $240,000 so far — approximately $50,000 a year. 

The funds go towards Stephen Lewis Foundation's Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign that supports community projects in 15 African countries. Royal City Gogos is part of the 20 or so local groups that are registered with the foundation and form a large network called Greater Van Gogos.

The foundation has, in the past, brought African grandmothers out to meet grandmothers in Canada who are part of the foundation's international grandmothers movement and has also taken select candidates from Canada to attend gatherings in Africa. 

On attending a gathering of grandmothers in Africa 

Reid was among the 40 candidates who were selected to be part of a gathering of 500 grandmothers from 14 African countries, in Swaziland (now called Eswatini), back in 2010.

“It was truly momentous,” Reid recounted.

“At that time, they [the African grandmothers] didn't know about each other. Each grandmother was isolated, and wasn’t aware that there were hundreds and thousands of women like them, who were raising some 18 million children who had been orphaned.”

Added Reid, “And so, they met together to understand the benefits given by governments in other countries, to form political action groups, the right to lobby for the changes that they needed..." 

So, has their situation improved over the years?

“I would have said, yes — markedly," Reid said. "However, the war in Ukraine is going to disrupt the food chain in Africa, and it's going to exacerbate starvation and poverty and create situations where AIDS can flourish.”

But the group hopes to do its part with fundraisers like the Solidarity Cycle (besides craft fairs, and walkathons through the year), which you can be a part of as well. From her past experience as an organizer, Reid guaranteed that it would be "a wonderful day".

"The excitement and the adrenaline is high for both the grandmothers who come out to cheer and cater for the day, and also the cyclists.” 


Those who are interested in joining the Solidarity Cycle event on Sept. 11, 2022, can start training this week. Volunteers from Royal City Gogos will provide training on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings; the meeting point is Queen’s Park Arena.

For details and registration, visit the Solidarity Cycle website. The fee is $50 for new riders, and $35 if you have ridden before. 


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