Ritchey is also the founder of Project Rwanda, a non-profit operation that brings specially designed utility bikes to the coffee growers of an African country that just a decade ago was still reeling from a genocide that killed nearly one million Rwandans. Coffee is Rwanda’s only significant export, and coffee growers have traditionally had to carry their beans down from the mountains on foot… or on ingenious handbuilt wooden scooters.
When Ritchey first visited Rwanda in 2005, he immediately saw that more and better bikes could dramatically change the outlook for this dirt-poor but soul-rich nation, and he launched Project Rwanda — a whole constellation of events and charities, from microloan bike sales to an annual bike race to a Rwandan national cycling team.
I talked to Tom the other day, and he told me, “I first went to Rwanda in 2005, and it changed my life. I knew this was something that I’d be doing for the rest of my life. These people and this place — they’re just amazing.”
Full disclosure: I’m hoping to volunteer for Project Rwanda, and you should consider doing what you can too. World Bicycling Relief and Kona Bike Town are two other great bike initiatives working right now in other parts of Africa, and I’ll tell you more about them in the coming days.