The Journal-Pioneer (Summerside)
Local News,
Monday, May 2, 2005, p. A16

A little pedal power can get you from Tip to Tip
Cycling fundraiser to help African village

Mackay, Mary
Transcontinental Media

Sheri Chislett is willing to go the distance when it comes to helping strangers on the other side of the world.

Starting on the Friday leading into the Victoria Day weekend in May, this Stratford woman and 99 others will push off from the lighthouse at North Cape, cycle the Confederation Trail and end at the East Point lighthouse on Monday, May 23.

"I was out twice on the weekend - not the most successful training I have ever done," laughs Chislett, whose posterior hadn't graced a bicycle seat since Diana Ross's Ain't No Mountain High Enough was number one on the hitparade.

Chislett, who is on the Tip to Tip for Africa organizing committee, may be thinking Ain't No Island Flat Enough right now but that hasn't dented her determination.

"I keep saying I'm going to be ready. I think we have about five or six full weeks and if the weather co-operates I really plan on getting out there a minimum of three times a week, more if I can."

The second cyclist to sign up, Chislett was beaten to the front of the registration line by Martha Deacon, the go-getter behind the Tip to Tip for Africa fundraiser for the Townships Project. Co- founded in December 1998 by Deacon and Rev. Lulama Ntshingwa of the Eastern Cape Provincial Council of Churches, the Townships Project makes small loans to very poor people in South Africa's township communities.

To date, the project has made more than 1,100 loans starting at $120 Canadian and assisted more than 3,500 people, mostly women, out of poverty.

"One of the things we're most terrified of is we don't know what to do, we look at Africa and we say it's hopeless," says Deacon, who has led tours of the townships for interested Canadians.

"We're also terrified because it's very frightening to be a 'have- it' and confront a 'have-not.' How do you talk?

"The common link we found, when we brought the two sides together, was they could look eye to eye because one knows from our side we're glad we're there and helping and we're pleased with ourselves. From their side, they're pleased with what they're able to do and they're pleased to be able to tell their story."

Sibyl Cutcliffe of Charlottetown experienced one of those eye-to-eye meetings in 2000 after being drawn in by Deacon's overwhelming enthusiasm for The Townships Project. While in South Africa, they visited a number of places where the micro-credit was working.

"One lady had a little shop at the back of her house . . . ," says Cutcliffe. "There was very little on the shelves, but she was using her money to buy and sell in this poor neighbourhood and according to what we heard from her was doing reasonably well. She was maintaining her home, maintaining her kids and able to send them off to school."

Cutcliffe, who still maintains a long distance friendship with township resident Maggie Ntsuntsu, who hosted her for one night, says Island groups and organizations have been supportive of the micro-lending project.

"It's because there's that personal contact. They know that with Martha the money is going to the project."

The Tip to Tip for Africa began with Deacon's dual desire to raise money for this charity and do something to promote the Confederation Trail which her father, the late Donald Deacon, strongly supported.

"It was my father's dream that this would be an economic engine for tourism in P.E.I. and would really be a great thing for the Island, not just a recreational trail but would bring people onto the Island for specific events and introduce them to the Island way of life and all kinds of great stuff," she says.

Organizing the Tip to Tip for Africa's four-day ride from North Cape to East Point with accommodations, meals, snacks, extra transportation and entertainment is a massive undertaking so a committee was formed to tackle the task.

First up was a framework of accommodations. Once the Rodd Mill River Resort, the Quality Inn - Garden of the Gulf in Summerside and Greenwich Gate in St. Peter's came on board, the other facets of the trip began to fall into place.

"The time of year is near perfect. It's a way of addressing the opening of our tourist season so that most of the accommodations are vacant, but they're looking to get some promotion for the coming year," says Gordon MacQueen, owner of MacQueen's Bike Shop, one of several local companies, including Prince Edward Tours and Outside Expeditions, that has offered vans and bicycle trailers to help transport the cyclists to and from their start and end points.

During the off-cycling time there will also be lots of local entertainment.

"There are 10 meals involved and then a snack, morning and evening, says Deacon. "It's a huge undertaking. We've tried to involve the community all the way along."

For example, the Tignish Boys and Girls Club is hosting a lunch. There is a Lions Club breakfast in O'Leary and an Evangeline District Community Acadian luncheon feast in Wellington, an African feast in Summerside and more.

"In all of these instances we're not asking them to provide anything for free," she adds. "We're actually giving the organization a cheque, not as large as we'd like... But I've been able to find generous individuals who have said, 'Yes, I'll sponsor a lunch or dinner. Maritime Electric is coming in (with) some meal sponsorship and we're making it work one way or another."

One unusual pit stop option on Sunday's schedule is the Blessing of the Bikes service at Trinity United church in Charlottetown .

"What I want to do is really lift up the Townships Project and recognize the people who have been cycling the province to raise money to help people in South Africa," says Rev. Bob Lockhart.

"So we want to add our blessing to the endeavours of all of the people who are taking part, give thanks for what people have done and that the people of South Africa would receive a blessing through this."

Members of the P.E.I. division of the Canadian Ski Patrol will be a constant presence throughout the ride. Perhaps best known for their work at Brookvale Provincial Ski Park in both the alpine and nordic ski sections, this group of active volunteers also appears at non-ski, sports-oriented events such as Cycle P.E.I., the P.E.I. Women's Institute Legacy Bike tours, Bridgefest and Red Cross Relays.

"We probably put more hours of volunteer time in during the summertime than we do in the winter and that's because we like doing those things that are becoming the norm," says Ron Hately, assistant patrol leader nordic for P.E.I. division.

For the Tip to Tip for Africa, a minimum of four of the patrol's 28 members will be on the trail on a rotating basis.

"Our main duty, of course, is to provide first aid services, so rescue or transport if we have to, getting people who are hurt off the trail," Hately says.

"The secondary duty for this event is to act as shepherds or escorts. So we'll have a ski patrollers... (to) keep an eye on people, make sure they're keeping pace and the people in the back don't feel like they're being left behind and the people in the front are not zipping along."

Members of the newly chartered Rotaract, a subsidiary of Rotary for ages 18 to 30, have been busy writing letters to community groups and business to inform them of Tip to Tip.


Illustration(s):

The Journal-Pioneer
Ron Hately, left, of North Wiltshire, originally from St. Eleanor's, and Gary Ogle of Kensington are two members of the Canadian Ski Patrol who have traded their winter volunteer duties at Brookvale Provincial Ski Park for summertime venues such as the
Tip to Tip for Africa tour, where they will provide first aid and shepherding services.


Category: News
Uniform subject(s): Sports and leisure
Length: Long, 1068 words

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