Four Ahwatukee residents are leading an effort to bring clean water to African villagers who have none.
Jane and Bob Meneely, along with Steve Elwell and Olivia Chavez, have scheduled a Wheels 4 Water bike ride Feb. 23 along a scenic part of Happy Valley Road in north Phoenix.
“Wheels 4 Water is not a race but a benefit ride,” said Jane Meneely, who is chairing the event. Participants pay $25 to go on a bike ride of either 12, 18 or 35 miles.
The goal is to raise money to dig a borehole for Bugunga, Uganda, a village that, like many others in that country, has no access to clean water.
Wheels 4 Water is a campaign by Water4Kids, one of many programs sponsored by Hope4Kids International, a global nonprofit agency that tries to help children living in abject poverty.
The rides start at 8 a.m. at 2530 W. Happy Valley Road and there is also a 9 a.m. start for a 5K walk. People can register at w4ki.org/wheels4water.
“The ride is on a nice road and a very scenic route,” said Meneely, an avid cyclist and an Ahwatukee resident since 1992.
The former longtime activities coordinator at Pointe South Mountain before it became Arizona Grande Resort, Meneely said the charity bike ride fits two of her passions in life – cycling and helping others.
A cycling lead for Lifetime Fitness, she said, “I’ve raced my fair share of cycling events – both road and mountain – and still enjoy riding and racing on two wheels year-round. That’s why I called on my friend, Steve Elwell, and so many other friends in our cycling community to come together on our bikes for this worthy cause.”
She is particularly impressed by Hope4Kids International not only because it has the highest rating from Goldstar, which analyzes nonprofits to determine how much of donations go to the people the nonprofit is trying to help, but also because of its track record.
“The reason I chose them is because of the work they’ve been doing in Uganda for 20 years – and also around the world for 40 years,” Meneely said. “They are responsible for bringing now over 600 water wells to remote villages in Uganda. When you read the statistics of diseases and deaths in these villages – over 50 percent of them are caused by dysentery and water-borne illnesses – it pulls at one’s heart to want to do something to change that statistic. Clean water instantly does that for these people.”
Meneely also doesn’t just rely on the Hope 4 Kids website for that information.
Last July she traveled with representatives of the nonprofit to Africa and saw “firsthand the positive impact these wells have on children, women and all people. With clean water they instead focus on education, caring for their families and improving their communities.”
“Hope 4 Kids International is also involved in medical outreach – we had three doctors traveling with us – education – they’ve built many many schools – and they are partners with Feed My Starving Children, another incredible charitable organization. Those are impactful.”
Hope4Kids says on its website that $10,500 enables it to build a well that lasts 30 years and meets the needs of 10,000 people.
“This means it only takes 100 (people) raising only $105 each, to restore health and save lives, impacting thousands of children and entire communities,” it said.
Meneely said her trip last summer was a life-changing experience and “that is why I was inspired to organize a benefit ride and raise money for a well for the village of Bugunga, Uganda.”
She said she’s encouraged by the early signups.
“We’re off to a good start and we are actively getting the word out where we can: Facebook, bike shops, friends, family, community,” she said.
“We hope they’ll come out to ride their bike – music, food and raffles afterwards. If you don’t ride, we hope you’ll sponsor a biker or donate to the well fund. Everyone can be part of making a difference. And every drop counts.”
“I truly am passionate about bringing clean water to wonderful people in Uganda,” Meneely said. “Everyone deserves to have clean water to drink. Each day I don’t think about filling a glass with water from the fridge or sink. Villagers from Bugunga have to walk 7 kilometers one way to get water and it’s contaminated. The task of fetching water falls disproportionately on the women and children of the villages.”
Registration link is: w4ki.org/wheels4water