Chooda is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a vision of personal transformation and global social change. Chooda’s mission is to create transformative experiences for its participants while providing much needed resources abroad. We at Chooda believe that by advocating for social justice in the world and by contributing a part of ourselves in service to others, we evolve. In this spirit, we create international adventure experiences where participants challenge themselves in a variety of ways (physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally) while having the opportunity to engage with communities for whom they have raised money and awareness and to interact with the local organizations that are working to make such social change possible. Crucial to our vision is the fostering of positive social interactions between our communities in culturally sensitive and mindful ways.
Chooda’s mission is supported by three distinct goals:
- Creating meaningful, transformative personal experiences for participants.
- Raising awareness and support of social issues through fundraising, acts of service, and community collaborations with our beneficiaries.
- Encouraging activism by creating an umbrella under which inspired and empowered participants can go on to create change in their own communities and in the world at large.
After a much appreciated morning to sleep in past 5:30, the team planned a morning with our final beneficiary, Grassroot Soccer (GRS), at a soccer tournament. The group’s contribution to GRS was to host their first ever VCT (Voluntary HIV Counseling and Testing) tournament in Livingstone – a new region that they are in the process of expanding to.
While at the tournament, GRS staff brought us around to the different tents to explain how their program works. For most tournaments, teams have been through an intensive 5-week HIV education program, called Skillz, and the tournament serves as their graduation where they now make an educated choice about whether or not they would like to get tested and counseled. Testing and counseling, in additional to male circumcision, is set up and available at their tournaments. Since this particular event was their first in Livingstone, the youth present had not yet been in the program, but instead GRS was aiming at getting the word and name out to recruit for future programs. Riders had a great time watching the soccer games and playing activities with the children and community members that showed up for the event.
An exciting afternoon followed, with a surprise sunset cruise on the Zambezi organized for the group. This boat ride and a delicious celebratory dinner was a great time for the group to reflect about the ride and their experiences. It was unanimously agreed how lucky our team was to have such a cohesive and supportive group of riders and staff embarking on this journey together.
Bike Zambia team participating in activities at the GRS tournament.
Football teams competing at the GRS tournament.
Riders enjoying a sunset cruise.
With a mix of excitement and regret to be finishing the ride, the team embarked on our last day of cycling into Livingstone. Compared to the majority of our +100 kilometer days, the 60 kilometer ride felt like a walk in the park and brought us into the city before noon.
Before heading to the falls, the group made a stop at Maramba Health Clinic to see the work of one of our beneficiaries, CIDRZ (Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia). As the clinic was very busy seeing patients, our visit and tour, though short, was very insightful and important for the group to see first-hand. The clinic, with only one physician and a staff of several counselors and nurses, sees well over a hundred patients each day. In addition to HIV/AIDS care, the clinic concentrates heavily on maternal care and tuberculosis. Within the HIV/AIDS initiatives, the clinic sees patients regularly for HIV testing, counseling, and close treatment monitoring – especially for the prevention of mother to child transmission.
After our visit to the clinic, riders regathered for lunch and prepared to cycle our last 10 km to Victoria Falls. After 7 long, difficult days of riding, the team earned a wonderful celebratory finish, crossing the bridge overlooking the falls and toasting at the mid-point – also the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe! We then took the foot path even closer to the falls to become thoroughly soaked by the mist and rewarded with the most beautifully vivid rainbow imaginable. And if the excitement of arriving at Victoria Falls were not enough, a few riders chose to get an additional adrenaline rush by jumping off the bridge for the bungee or gorge swing – a not-so-mere 111 meter drop!
Visiting the Maramba Health Clinic in Livingstone to see CIDRZ’s HIV/AIDS programs.
The whole team cycling to our finish line on the bridge overlooking Victoria Falls.
The beautiful Victoria Falls.
Amidst a day full of off-road riding, hot afternoon sun, and just a few too many falls into the deep sand, we stopped in a small village called Siachatema. For those of us who did the trip last year, this was a village that we eagerly awaited. We had been very warmly welcomed last year and given a tour of the town. So to our great joy, one of the village leaders, David, not only warmly welcomed our group once again, but remembered Bike Zambia from the previous ride and had photos that one of our riders last year had emailed him of our visit.
The town was founded by a Baptist missionary, Claudie Peyton, with just a church and orphanage. David was one of those orphans adopted by Claudie, and now dedicates his life to the memory of his mother and her work. The village has now grown to include a school, resource center, and health clinic. David showed us with pride where his mother is buried, and then brought us around the village. It just so happened that today was their weekly VCT (voluntary HIV/AIDS counseling and testing) day at the clinic – so our team was lucky enough to go visit and see the great work that the clinic is doing. During our 11am visit, the caregivers had already seen around 20 individuals for testing.
The Bike Zambia team and David Peyton in Siachatema.
With today’s ride came some milestones and unfortunately some injury. The route itself was not furthering the team along our way to Livingstone, but instead was a small detour to see the beautiful countryside of Zambia – ending at the shores of Lake Kariba.
The team completed our longest day of riding yet, 110 kilometers. Our youngest rider, Mitch (9 years old) broke his 100 kilometer mark on the trip as a whole – coming on some of the hilliest legs of the ride today and doing a fabulous job keeping up with everyone (or even beating some of us to the top!). He’s excited to continue tackling some more legs of the ride with just a couple more riding days until we reach Livingstone.
The morning started off pleasant enough, with some amazing, long downhills winding through the valley. During the afternoon, though, our wonderful trip doctor, Heidi, was forced to put her skills to use with a few minor injuries – including some stitches and knee wrapping. Good to know we’re all well looked after on the road!
At the end of the day, the team was happy to arrive at the lake and relax on the rocks by the water. If only we were able to take a dip and cool down – too bad we were sitting right next to a “Beware of the Crocodiles” sign! We then all piled back onto our bus for a return transfer to Choma.
Mitch attacking yet another hill no problem!
Relaxing by the edge of Lake Kariba after a long day of riding.
Though today’s ride had its highs and lows, with a slightly smoother paved road stretching over 100 kilometers, this update is more appropriately about someone we met along the route, Mulenga.
As many of you are aware, Bike Zambia is a ride to support a number of beneficiaries who are working to address HIV/AIDS and poverty in Zambia. One of these main organizations is World Bicycle Relief, who we support through the Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP), the STEPS/OVC caregivers program, and a revolving microfinance bicycle lending program through Vision Fund.
Mulenga was a recipient of a Vision Fund bicycle loan.
Just over a year ago, at the age of 58, Mulenga received a Buffalo Bicycle to help him with his dairy business. As part of a dairy collective, he is the traditional target of a microfinance bicycle loan, which are often made to those in the agriculture sector to help bring their goods to the market. Dairy farmers especially benefit from a bicycle because they must get their milk to a truck by a certain very early hour of the morning in order to be transported to the city. If they miss the truck, their day’s product goes sour and their income is lost. For Mulenga, being able to transport his 40 liters of milk in the morning on the back of his bicycle is crucial for his livelihood. He is paying off his bicycle in 4 installments.
With a full year’s use under his belt, Mulenga could not stop raving about how well the Buffalo Bike has served him and how well it has held up under its daily use. He has never had to replace or repair anything more than a tube for the tires! We were incredibly happy to be able to see this program in action while on the road and hear first-hand of its success.
Mulenga with his Buffalo Bicycle.
With a short leg on the paved road before heading onto the dirt, we made our way out of Mazabuka for our next stop, Monze. As promised, we really did turn off the main traffic route and made our way along the unmapped dirt roads, encountering deep sandy patches, rocky bumps, 90 degree temperatures, and the occasional cattle crossing. Cycling in this terrain proved much different than most riders’ usual training on road bikes. And though challenging, it was undeniably one of the most beautiful days of the ride – allowing for an unique experience of the countryside and endless opportunity to stop and interact with villagers.
Along the route we came across one friendly face after another and enthusiastically received as many waving hands as we could from children and those passing by. Each village continued to amaze us with their hospitality, with a warm welcome from almost everyone we’ve met. Some particularly great stops included impromptu football at our lunch break, a peek into one village’s bicycle repair shop, and a brief serenade by an incredible make-shift guitar. We even had some Zambian riders joining us for short legs of the ride – and one sporting a World Bicycle Relief Buffalo Bike!
So though a difficult day for riding, the group arrived in Monze with great stories of the afternoon and a whole new appreciation for a comfy bed and nice night’s sleep!
After a well deserved sleep in Siavonga, the group awoke early for a visit to the Lake Kariba dam wall, just a few kilometers outside of the town. The dam wall completed in 1960, spans an impressive 617 meters in width and boasts over a 120 meter drop – not to mention, it holds back the world’s largest reservoir by volume!
Following this stop, the group transferred back en route to Livingston, making our way towards the next site, Mazabuka. With the beginning of this ride came a few small hills – which felt like almost nothing compared to our day 1 of climbing – and a much welcomed detour off the main road. After two days of cycling on some heavily trafficked, truck-traveled roads, the team welcomed the opportunity to veer right onto the dirt. Though off-road riding does come with its challenges too (mainly bumpy and sandy terrain), the majority of riders loved the chance to get away from the hustle and bustle and simply see more of the rural life of Zambia.
Along with some powerful stops in villages along the way, giving us the opportunity to talk with the locals, we enjoyed cycling through what is considered the sweetest town in Zambia. Mazabuka is the sugar cane capital of the country, and provides almost an oasis of green agriculture tucked among the surrounding, rather arid terrain. We look forward to an even more rural ride tomorrow or as our guide, Henk, puts it – dropping off the map
A busy village stop on our way to Mazabuka.
Following a 6:30 departure time a bus transfer outside of the busy Lusaka city streets, the team regrouped and prepared for our first full day of riding. And a full day it was planned to be, with a solid 108 kilometers to start us off. As this day was part of the updated route since Bike Zambia 2012, the whole crew was is for a brand new ride and a whole new surprise of just how hilly Zambia can get.
Nonetheless, riders headed out with high enthusiasm and spirit for their first encounter with rural Zambian villages. We had some wonderful stops along the route including a roadside Zambian dance party, a baboon troop sighting, some spectacular baobab trees, and of course some long visits with locals along the route (note to future riders: Tom’s Polaroid camera = huge hit!)
Finally, with the day quickly fleeting, riders continued on a few last hilly legs of the ride – getting their first taste of the challenge behind Zambian cycling with a not so meager 884 meters of climbing! But with every up hill there was a beautiful winding downhill, and most riders triumphantly cycled the entire route to our end point in Siavonga – and just in time to see the miraculous sunset.
The whole Bike Zambia team before taking off for our first day of riding.
Some impromptu Zambian dance parties.
Tom was the hit of the show giving out Polaroid shots to the children.
Just a few layovers, brief cramped plane naps, and minor delays later – the Bike Zambia team arrived together for the first time in Lusaka yesterday afternoon. With barely a moment to rest, we piled into a bus to head to our first beneficiary visit, World Bicycle Relief (WBR), to see the factory and hear about the programs from country director, Dave Neiswander. Our visit was short in anticipation of a longer field visit the following afternoon.
Today’s activities started with a visit to Sishemo Education Trust, one of our other Lusaka-based beneficiaries. Along with a stop to see the Mizizi compound in the morning (the place where most students called home) we arrived at the school for a wonderful opening ceremony for Sishemo’s brand new kitchen. Bike Zambia 2012′s contribution to the school went to providing a modern kitchen facility for the schools growing population (now up to 480 from last year’s 300 students!). It was an honor to see the amazing growth and progress of the school, staff, and students, and we look forward to completing the kitchen by using this year’s funds to furnish it with appliances.
We left the school after a short soccer game, sad to say good-bye to the students, but excited to return to WBR for the remainder of our activities. The group got a chance to build their own Buffalo Bicycles – with the help of WBR mechanics, of course! Our afternoon the included a special visit to Chipapa Basic School, a 30-minute drive outside of Lusaka, to see the Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program. We arrived to a beautiful ceremony of singing and dancing by the students, took a tour of the school, and heard first-hand just how much difference a bicycle makes to a girl in overcoming the hurdle of long distances when trying to get an education. We even had the opportunity to visit the home and talk with a family of a student who received a bicycle.
Needless to say, we had a very packed and exciting (yet very humbling) first full day in Zambia. We look forward to heading out on the road bright and early (6:30am to be exact!) tomorrow morning for our first day of riding.
Soccer game, BZ vs Sishemo – we only lost by 1:)
The opening ceremony of Sishemo’s new kitchen.
WBR and BZ riders with their completed Buffalo Bikes.
A visit with a WBR recipient and her family.