Cycling for health

Twenty-three-year-old Hunter Lambert, with her 19 American friends, will cycle across Malawi in three weeks, covering a distance of 1 367 kilometres in a fundraising initiative for Neno District Hospital out-patient wing.

Back in the United States of America (USA) where she comes from, she read on the Internet that some volunteers were needed to come to Malawi to embark on a cycling trip.

The riders doing rehearsals in Neno a day before their cycling trip

Partners In Health (PIH), a global health organisation working in Neno District, placed the invitations on a website of an organisation based in Boston, Massachusetts called One Pulse.

After reading the invite, Lambert made a decision to register with One Pulse to come to Malawi to participate in the cycling trip.

“I was moved with the story of Neno District Hospital which lacks an out-patient wing,” she says.

Her friend, Natali Anna Ortiz from Spain, but based in the USA, says she came to Malawi to take part in the cycling tour in support of PIH’s work in Neno.

“Healthcare is a universal right and I am very thrilled to take part in this exercise which is one way of contributing something to someone’s life,” she says.

The 20 expatriate riders set off from Zalewa in the Southern Region. They will cycle for three weeks—passing through Phalula, Kasinje along the M1 Road to Salima.

“From here the riders will take the Lakeshore Road and cycle all the way to Nkhotakota, Liwaladzi, Chintheche, and turn off to Chikangawa and Jenda in Mzimba in the Northern Region,” says LucksonDullie, executive director of PIH.

From Jenda the riders will head to Kasungu and pass through Mponela in Dowa. Then, they will reach Lilongwe where they will branch off to Salima.

“From Salima, they will pass through Golomoti to Mangochi and return through the same road to Neno,” adds Dullie.

The riders, who are mostly female, will overcome the challenges of fatigue as all of them are inexperienced riders.

“That is why before the tour, we had to do some rehearsals in Neno at the boma, training these riders how to cope up with a long distance ride,” says Eric McQuestion, director of One Pulse and leader of the team.

McQuestion, who assembled the team in America, says he has always had a passion to intervene in challenges facing humanity.

“Our organisation believes in reaching out to people in their hour of need. We received calls from PIH to help in raising funds for the people of Neno and we decided to respond,” he says.

The ride is expected to raise $100 000 (about K73 million) and McQuestion is optimistic they will get this amount by July 29.

According to Dullie, PIH needs about $650 0000 (about K476 million) to build the out-patient wing at Neno District Hospital.

“It is our goal to start this project this year. The wing will further expand the hospital to accommodate more patients,” he says.

The construction project at the hospital is among many projects that PIH is doing to improve access to health services in Neno.

District health officer (DHO), Lawrence Nazimera, is commending PIH for its projects at the hospital, saying they are making positive contributions.

“The collaboration of PIH with the Ministry of Health in Neno continues to bear fruits as we have seen them re-build this hospital and improve infrastructure around the district,” he says.

Neno, with a population of about 150 000, has two hospitals—the district hospital at the boma, some 25 kilometres (km) from Neno Turn-Off on M1 Road and Lisungwi Community Hospital, 15 kms from M1 Road.

There are also other 12 health centres littered across the hilly district and PIH has just finished the construction of Dambe Health Centre, situated in Neno North, 20km from the boma.

According to Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume, Neno has enough health facilities lacking in other districts in the country.

“Three major health facilities in Neno will be sufficient for the population. They are enough as some districts don’t have that much,” says Kumpalume.

As the 20 riders are cycling through the roads for a noble cause, defying distance, toiling and sweating under tropical weather conditions, PIH in Neno will take pride in their success when the wing is erected.

And by that time the young Lambert, now smiling for this escapade in Malawi, will be back in her country—only fond memories will keep her company for as long as the wing in Neno will last.

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