Canadian speed skater, Cindy Klassen (holding gourd) tries a traditional goat milk beverage and enjoys the friendship of other cyclists and supporters of the Cycle for Life: Build Peace, Stop AIDS tour, including Simon Macharia and Maureen Chepkemoi. In May, one of Canada’s most decorated Olympians cycled 480 kilometres through Kenya in 5 days in support of Mennonite Central Committee’s peace clubs.
The bicycle tour was a joint effort between MCC Kenya, MCC Alberta, and the Lari Memorial Peace Museum in Kenya, which promotes inter-ethnic dialogue and peace education in schools. Five Canadian and 14 Kenyan cyclists participated.
MCC’s peace clubs use computers and social networking to encourage interaction among youth from different ethnic groups, in a country with some 42 major tribes. About 30 primary and secondary schools plan to start peace clubs in 2011, bringing the total to about 180 schools, said Waihenya Njoroge, founder and coordinator of the Lari Museum.
Klassen, the only female cyclist in the group, said children ran alongside the cyclists and were excited to see the geographic and ethnic diversity of cyclists. Klassen said she has learned much about the deep-rooted conflicts and violence in Kenya, and was inspired by the commitment of the Kenyan cyclists to pursue peace, healing, and reconciliation.
“The hope they had for peace was incredible,” she said. “We heard people say the future of their country is their children and that peace needs to start with people talking with each other.”