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Carla Bikes Africa

January 6, 2012

Carla Bikes AfricaWelcome to 2012! I unplugged myself from the interwebs for much of the holiday season last month. For my first post here in this new year, I want to draw attention to something that isn’t about me or photography. But it’s something I’d like readers to know about.

Last night, I attended a fund-raiser and cheerful blast-off event for my friend Carla White. We worked together in 2010, and I got to know her as a positive, energetic person with a lot of heart, and a passion for traveling to learn about people. Well, she’s going to put that to the test in a major way starting very soon. She’s participating in this year’s Tour D’Afrique and will cycle about 12,000 kilometres down the length of the continent of Africa — from Cairo to Capetown! You can read about it at her site, Carla Bikes Africa To End Energy Poverty.

The last part of Carla’s tagline — “to end energy poverty” — is a key part of her unfolding story. As she told it to the group last night, she didn’t want to simply go on a grand adventure and then be able to tell stories at dinner parties back home. Rather, she wanted to not only connect with local people along the route but also help contribute something tangible that could make a meaningful difference in their lives. To get ideas about that, she contacted a friend, somebody I’ve known for a long time — Jay Baydala.

Carla White's Bike Gear

Carla stands in front of a table with the gear she will take for 4 months of cycling. Is she counting off things on her to-do list, the great people on her team, or perhaps the ways that some may think she's a 'nutter'? Her word, not mine! 🙂

Some years ago, Jay started the organization that’s now known as UEnd:Poverty. Jay’s vision was deceptively simply — enable everyday people to redirect a small percentage of the billions of dollars spent annually on Christmas gift giving and all kinds of other “stuff” that we mostly don’t need, and instead apply those funds to sustainable projects that can end extreme poverty in the poorest countries around the world. The idea is simple, but the scope of it is really mind-blowing if you think about it. What Jay has managed to accomplish so far with the team he’s pulled together is impressive, and they’re still building momentum.

Jay and Carla connected with a couple of others. These included Chris Bedford of the Karo Design Group, who had a wind turbine-powered water pump project already going in Africa. And Steve O’Gorman, a Calgary-based engineer by trade whose STAR EcoWorks designs simple, robust, solar-charged lighting units that have been deployed to a number of developing countries. The result is this UEnd project — Carla Bikes Africa To End Energy Poverty. The immediate goal is to raise $25,000 CDN which will fund the installation of a wind turbine, water pump and set of solar-powered lights in 5 villages along the cycling route.

I talked to all four of these folks at the fund-raiser last night, and their enthusiasm, energy and dedication is incredible. Carla is going to be the one hitting it hard for nearly four months on her cycle, but she’s got an amazing team behind her that includes a whole lot of other people as well.

If you have some cash set aside for worthy social projects or just left-over from holiday spending budgets, take a look at Carla’s UEnd project and see if it’s something to which you’d like to donate. Also look through other UEnd projects, perhaps something else will resonate with you. Above all, think about how fortunate so many of us are, and what we can do to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others who don’t share our advantages.

Jay Baydala of UEnd Poverty

That's Jay on the left, the guy who started the organization that's now UEnd:Poverty. Standing with him is a friend, Andy, who's actually from South Africa.

I said at the top that this post isn’t about photography. Well, not directly. A few of Carla’s goals are — in her own words — “to be better at/learn more about photography, cooking and world issues.” I feel safe in predicting this adventure will definitely score on all 3 of those goals! And Jay himself is no slouch with a camera. It’s a truism that any good photographer has to learn to really see. I’d hazard an informed guess that seeing played no small part in Jay’s personal life-changing decisions, leading directly to the creation of UEnd.

So I guess there is a photography tie-in here. It’s been said that pictures can change the world. They don’t really do that, of course — it’s people who change the world. But photography gives us a powerful vehicle to show and see the change that’s needed in the lives of real people around the world, and to see the positive changes that other real people are making. Each of us can play a part in that change.

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