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Picton woman’s bike ride rolls into $3.2 million for female farmers in Ghana

Sarah and MaryWhen a Picton woman and her friend wheeled out plans to raise $150,000 to help rural women in Africa, they didn’t even imagine it would result in a multi-million dollar contribution.

Sarah French and her friend Mary Fehr biked their way across the country last summer and were thrilled to have raised more than $320,000 for the GROW – Greater Rural Opportunities for Women – project.

French, reporting on her adventure to Picton Rotary Club members on Tuesday, said that with matching contributions added in from various Canadian government initiatives, $3.2 million will help “grow” business opportunities to empower female soy bean farmers in Ghana, Africa.

As a student at PECI, French was accepted to live in Argentina as a Rotary exchange student and after graduating with a degree from Carleton University in International Relations studies, she spent seven months in Nicaragua as interns to work with farmers on sustainable development projects. Mary was in Tanzania on her internship but they kept in touch. They witnessed first-hand the toll of poverty on its citizens – especially women.

The two dipped their bike tires in the ocean on May 18 in Victoria, BC and criss-crossed 8,710 kilometres to their journey’s end on Sept. 2. They travelled about 100km a day, though the longest day logged was 177km.

Despite flat tires and broken spokes, she said their spirits were kept high witnessing the kindness and generosity of Canadians right across the country.

Her slide presentation told of how they were challenged to conqueur the Coquihalla summit (known as Highway Thru Hell on the Discovery Channel television show). She also noted some fear seeing many bears. Otherwise, wind was also a challenge.

“The Prairies were great, and beautiful. There were no hills but the winds were really bad and I fell in the ditch about five times because the wind was pushing me over.”

It was the generosity of Canadians she will remember, including the citizens who drove 40kms out of their way to deliver tent poles valued at $300 that the girls had lost.

“People were always stopping to help… or give us water, or money… cookies, coffee… offers to stay in their homes. They were all wonderful.”

She also thanked County residents, businesses and the Rotary Club for supporting the ride with donations, support and training. She plans to go to Ghana in November to see how the women with the project are doing.

And Picton’s Rotarians showed their appreciation, presenting French with the club’s highest honour – the Paul Harris Fellowship Award.

“Rotarians often designate a Paul Harris Fellow as a tribute to a person who demonstrates a shared purpose with the objectives of the Rotary Foundation. Sarah has most certainly done that,” said Rotarian Bob Bird.

Sarah-Paul-Harris-Fellow

Rotary President Rob Leek with Paul Harris Fellow recipient Sarah French and Rotarian Bob Bird.

 

Bird also recognized fellow Rotarians being honoured with the Paul Harris Fellow, acknowledging individuals who contribute, or have contributions made in their name, of $1,000 to Rotary, its programs or an approved foundation grant.

 

Paul-Harris-Rotary-Jan-2016Receiving their first Paul Harris Fellow were: (front row) Joanne Coker, Grant Reynolds, Darlene Eldridge, Barb Proctor, Libby Crombie and Theresa Tunnell. Receiving their second or more Paul Harris Fellow were: Bob Bird, Mary Corbet, Debbie Moynes, James Hepburn and Jim Wait. Also mentioned were those who received a Paul Harris Fellow in this Rotary Year: Peta Hall, Hilary Latimer, Peggy Dewitt , James Macgregor, Marion Hughes, Andrew Janikowski and Rick Jones.

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  1. Ian Macpherson says:

    Well done, Sarah. Fantastic!

    Your family must be bursting with pride!

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