December 1 2011

Brussels Airlines biking for African children

01/12/2011 - From 10 to 16 November, a group of some 40 employees of Brussels Airlines cycled from Rwanda to Burundi. They covered a distance of about 280 km, raising funds for medical projects of SOS Children's Villages in Africa.

Photo: SOS Archives
The 280 km from Kigali to Bujumbura were no piece of cake - Photo: SOS Archives
In November, the group of some 40 employees of Brussels Airlines was leaving Kigali in Rwanda. Their ambition was to cycle through the very hilly landscape (Rwanda is called the Land of the Thousand Hills) into Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, a distance of about 280 km. Given the complexity of the course, they did this on mountain bikes (some even on tandem mountain bikes) in a total of five days.

The goal: Help to reduce child mortality
The airline's initial motivation for doing the trip was the dreadful fact that every year 8 million children under the age of five die worldwide. Brussels Airlines wants to contribute to the millennium goal of reducing child mortality by 2015.
"Cycling in Africa is a dream come true. Adventure, challenges, teambuilding, pleasure and fun. And the best part of it is that I’m supporting children in Africa. It's an honour to be a part of this project," said Bart Boumon, one of the bikers.

The tour began in the Rwandan capital, in the SOS Medical Centre in Kigali. Five days later, the cyclists arrived in Bujumbura, where they handed over the collected funds to the SOS Medical Centre in Burundi's capital city. Every month an average of 1,400 patients are treated in this centre.

By biking some 280 km through the heart of Africa, the company aimed to raise a total of 75,000 EUR for SOS Children's Villages in Rwanda, Burundi and the other 19 African destinations of Brussels Airlines. The funds raised will be used for medical programmes, providing continued supply for medical services to vulnerable children. Apart from the funds, the group also brought goods to villages, clinics and projects along the way. Although the goal was to help improve the health of children, the charity campaign had the positive side-effect that the employees have been doing it in a healthy and active way.

Photo: SOS Archives
In the end, the hard work paid off - for the children , but also for the bikers and everyone involved in the project - Photo: SOS Archives
Original goals exceeded
By the time the team arrived in Bujumbura, 84,000 EUR had been raised thanks to individuals and companies who sponsored the athletic employees. Donations came not only from Belgium, but also from Sweden, Denmark, the UK and others.
"It is very satisfying to know that all the hard work in riding 280 km under tropical conditions led to raising much-needed funds for the children of Kigali, Bujumbura and other locations", said Luke Bugeja, a keen cyclist who recently completed a tour across the UK to raise money for a school in Northern Kenya.

Tom Moons, Corporate Partnerships - SOS Children’s Villages Belgium, explains: "Bike for Africa is a great example of how a simple idea turns into a great campaign. A campaign worked out by the employees of Brussels Airlines, based on enthusiasm and involving all stakeholders (clients, colleagues, partners, …). With a  positive result on the internal motivation of the company, the image of SOS Children’s Villages locally (Rwanda and Burundi)  and above all, a very positive effect on the life of so many vulnerable children in Africa. A very special thank you to Brussels Airlines, but also to all our colleagues in Rwanda and Burundi for their professional support. ”