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Getting on his bike to help poor in Burundi

A Sandbach husband and wife are gearing up for a major charity appeal to support vulnerable communities around the world.

Mark and Sue Thompson are joining fellow fund-raisers by holding a sponsored cycle as part of Christian Aid Week 2024. The pair attend Sandbach Baptist Church. But this is no ordinary bike ride: Mr Thompson is mounting a virtual challenge on a static cycle, while his wife serves refreshments to supporters, and exchanges garden plants for donations.

Mr Thompson, who is planning to cover up to 200 miles in total, explained: “Every year, during Christian Aid Week, people across Britain and Ireland have seven days and so many ways to raise funds to support their global neighbours, in a celebration of hope for a fairer world.

“I do a sponsored static bike ride – in our garage – for a couple of hours every day, and invite neighbours and friends, and church friends to come and support, watching my virtual progress through the landscape on a television screen and my actual effort in the flesh.

This year, the virtual bike rides will be in Norway.

“While I’m pedalling, Sue serves refreshments and offers plants, which she and her friend Susie have been growing all year, in exchange for donations.

“Last year, we raised nearly £2,000.”

Anyone who fancies supporting the ride can call in at 81, Forge Fields, Wheelock, every day from 12th-18th May, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 2pm to 4pm and Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10am to noon.

Money raised during Christian Aid Week will help the organisation’s partners empower vulnerable communities to find practical and sustainable ways out of poverty.

This year’s appeal – from 12th–18th May – is focusing on work in Burundi, one of the most densely populated and poorest countries in Africa.

Heavily reliant on agriculture, it’s also one of the least prepared to combat the effects of climate change, including droughts, floods and landslides. The global cost of living crisis has intensified the challenges: more than 70% of the population live in poverty and more than half of children are chronically malnourished.

Christian Aid has been working in Burundi since 1995 when it first offered humanitarian assistance to people surviving the civil conflict.

Alongside local partners, the organisation helps establish Village Savings and Loans Associations. These community-led groups mean people can save and borrow money, making small businesses possible, offering reliable and diverse incomes so families can eat regularly, get medicine when they need it, and build safer homes.

Mr Thompson said: “This year the money we raise will help people in Burundi push back against poverty. It’s quite shocking to hear that malnourishment and poverty affect more than 70% of people there. Christian Aid is working to empower families in Burundi build reliable and diverse incomes.”

To find out more about Christian Aid week, visit christianaid.org.uk.

To support the Thompsons visit their fundraising page, at fundraise.christianaid.org.uk and search for “virtual Norwegian bike ride”.

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