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UofT Student Spends Summer Volunteering in Africa — Bike-Aid

September 22, 2007 – Eric Chow is a 4th year Industrial Engineering student at the University of Toronto with a strong interest in international healthcare and humanitarian aid. During the academic year, Eric is a passionate mountain biker and Captain of the Varsity Blues Mountain Bike Team. This past summer, he traveled to East Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and to volunteer on Pemba, an island off the coast of Tanzania.

For the first part of his trip, Eric climbed Mount Kilimanjaro as a third-party fundraising event for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Not only did he reach the summit of the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5895m above sea level (wearing a “Blues” Jersey), he also surpassed his fundraising goal and raised a total of $955 that was donated directly to support the relief work done by MSF.

On the island of Pemba, Eric volunteered with a group called Educational Perspectives that aims to improve AIDS and HIV awareness through educational programs. Along with a group of other student volunteers from across the world, Eric volunteered at Utaani Secondary School and Benjamin Mkapa Teacher’s Training College teaching AIDS and HIV awareness, first-aid and disease prevention to local youth and future educators. As part of the extracurricular portion, Eric showed the students simple maintenance and bicycle care with tools and spare parts donated by local bicycle shops in Toronto.

Working in collaboration with UMATI, a not for profit voluntary NGO, Educational Perspectives established two new chapters to continue to promote sexual and reproductive health on Pemba. UMATI provides the majority of its healthcare services with the help of a recently donated fleet of bicycles. The bicycles enable the healthcare workers to cover a wider area and serve more patients more effectively than if they had to travel by foot. Thanks to the donations of parts and tools that Eric brought from a Toronto bike shop that support many of the efforts of the varsity blues mountain bike team, UMATI is now well equipped with tools to maintain their fleet of bicycles and to continue their services throughout Pemba island.

Our team places a strong emphasis on volunteering in the community, getting involved, and helping the environment and it never ceases to amaze me what student athletes at this institution accomplish both in the classroom and beyond the boundaries of campus. Eric is an outstanding role model and we’re proud to have him on the team.

Eric has returned to Toronto to finish his final year in Engineering. It’s clear to him that bicycles can be more than just recreational vehicles. A bicycle can be a solution to the problems we’re facing in the world — environmental and health related. It’s a simple machine, but all it takes is two wheels to make a world of a difference.

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