Virginia Tech is holding its first ever Bike to Uganda event in which the university will race against the University of Virginia in an effort to raise money for the construction of schools in the impoverished city of Kampala, Uganda.
From March 30 to April 3, tents with stationary bikes will be set up on the lawn between the Graduate Life Center and Squires. Throughout those days, students will take turns on the bikes until the university reaches its goal of 7,468 miles, the distance from Blacksburg to Kampala.
"Our goal is to reach the total miles before UVa does," said Allison Jarnigan, the director of PACE and the driving force behind Tech's half of the Bike to Uganda event. "Even though Blacksburg is an additional 150 miles away," she said with a chuckle.
Throughout the spring, Jarnigan has worked with Building Tomorrow's associate director and UVa grad Maggie Kirkpatrick to bring the event to Blacksburg.
"My younger sister is a freshman at Tech," Kirkpatrick said. "She spoke with PACE's Allison Jarnigan on behalf of Building Tomorrow and we've been able to build from there."
Building Tomorrow has sponsored the Bike to Uganda since William & Mary graduate George Srour founded the organization in 2005. UVa was one of the first universities to sign on with Building Tomorrow, which now has more than 15 college chapters across the nation.
"This is our third year doing the Bike to Uganda event," said Sarah Wade, president of Building Tomorrow, UVa chapter. "It's given BT a great presence at UVa and has not only raised a lot of money but has also brought the university's community together to in a way that can help others."
The fundraiser works much like a pledge drive. Students are encouraged to take on sponsors willing to donate a certain dollar amount for each mile they ride. The fiscal goal of the event is to raise $45,000 dollars - the amount needed to construct an entirely new school.
"The money we raise can pay for the land and construction materials to build the school," Kirkpatrick said. "We then partner with the community members in Uganda who can provide the labor hours to construct the school."
In the three years UVa has sponsored the event, it was able to raise enough money to build a new academy in the community of Gita, Uganda. This academy alone has helped more than 350 children attain schooling that would have otherwise been unavailable to them.
But this is just a small relief to what has become a national dilemma in Uganda. An estimated one million children between the ages of 6 and 12 have no means by which they can attain a primary education.
"When our founder George Srour served an internship in Uganda he was shocked by the level of poverty he witnessed," Kirkpatrick said. "We've been involved in Uganda since, but we do have plans to expand."
The race between UVa and Tech is the only such rivalry participating in the Bike to Uganda event, but Building Tomorrow is energized about the excitement the challenge has brought to the event. Even though the anticipation is high, Tech is trying to keep the expectations realistic for the fledgling program.
"Some businesses are sponsoring us, but we're encouraging students to pledge roughly $2 per mile," Jarnigin said. "We're really looking to just get things started this year."
Students can sign up for the event either by showing up to the event on the day of, or registering beforehand by going to the Building Tomorrow Web site at www.buidingtomorrow.org/supporters/vt-pace.