A retired Rossland doctor is cycling across Africa to raise money for kids in Kenya to continue their education.
Dr. Brenda Trenholme has lived and worked in Rossland for 32 years and is taking on the Tour d’Afrique — a 90-day ride covering 12,076 km from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa — to raise money for the Kenya Education Endowment Fund (KEEF).
KEEF is a Vancouver-based charity “that supports very poor but academically gifted high school students in Kenya,” as secondary education there is not free.
Trenholme and her family have a longstanding affiliation with the charity.
Her parents started supporting Kenyan students through a different program, and asked Trenholme and her late husband if they would be interested in supporting the students as well.
“We sort of took them on and helped them through university, and then we heard about KEEF so we started donating to that as a family — like individuals in our family were donating — and then my sister just became involved in helping and going over to Kenya and helping to choose the students,” she says.
Trenholme’s sister is currently in Kenya interviewing students for the coming school year, which starts in February. Trenholme’s brother-in-law is now chair of the KEEF board and he and his wife travel to Kenya annually, at their own expense, to interview hundreds of students competing for a limited number of spots.
“They interview I think 400 kids and … last year they had 94 spaces,” says Trenholme. “[It’s] $600 a year per child, and that gives them enough money for school, lodging, eating, medical supplies, books, everything.”
Kids referred to the program are students who show academic promise, but who are living in poverty.
Trenholme says it’s hard for her sister knowing that KEEF can only provide funding for some of them.
“This one student, she said he has no parents, his grandmother has like a dozen orphans that she helps raise and they all have a little plot of land that they try to grow food on, and I mean they’re literally just destitute,” says Trenholme. “Since he’s started school he’s been the top student and he can’t afford to go on.”
KEEF not only needs to be able to fund new students, but continuing students as well.
So to help raise money and awareness for KEEF, 61-year-old Trenholme is taking part in TDA Global Cycling’s Tour d’Afrique beginning on Friday, Jan. 15.
Trenholme retired in November and wanted to do something to give back. She’s also been cycle touring for six or seven years, and wanted to take on something more adventurous.
“On my last trip, which was in September/October I went with three friends and the two guys were worried that I was going to — once I retired — just take off and go to dangerous places by myself, because I had been talking about doing that,” she says. “So in late November, this one friend sent me a link and said, ‘Look at this. This is tailor-made for you and it’s safer than going by yourself,’ and I was a little nervous about taking off by myself, but I wanted to explore more remote places.”
Trenholme would like to do the Silk Route tour — 12,280 km over 117 days of riding from Beijing, China to Istanbul, Turkey — but had a scheduling conflict this summer, so instead she’s been rushing to prepare for the trip this month.
While TDA Global Cycling takes care of many of the logistics, such as route, security and food, Trenholme needs to make sure she can secure visas for seven of the ten countries the tour goes through.
“Three of them are quite stringent, like Sudan, Ethiopia and Malawi, and I’ve got my Malawi one,” she says.
She’ll have to spend some of her non-cycling days in embassies, securing additional visas.
She also has to figure out how to get all of her gear, including camping supplies — since only the first and last night will be spent in hotels — and lots of extra parts for her bike, to Cairo. Once there, the tour company will pack her gear into a van, but there’s still Malaria and security detours to worry about.
“There’s huge security risks in Africa and at times they’ve had to fly the whole group over a whole country,” says Trenholme.
Should this happen, cyclists must pay for their own airfare.
Despite the risks, Trenholme is excited to experience the terrain and see the wildlife. She’s been preparing for the physical demand of the trip by cycling on a wind trainer and spent part of Thursday at Revolution Cycle learning how to do small repairs to her bike.
“I can do some fairly basic mechanics, but they expect us to be able to adjust our breaks and our gears, and I’ve never really had much of an issues, but mostly I’ve been riding on roads and it hasn’t been tough on the bike, whereas this … it’s pretty rough terrain,” she says. “It’ll be a challenge; it’ll be fun.”
To donate to KEEF or to sponsor a student, send cheques to 904-2135 Argyle Ave., West Vancouver, BC, V7V 1A5 or visit kenyaneducation.org, and write “Brenda’s Ride” in the memo or comment field.