How Cycling 500 KM to Raise Funds Has Taken Me Deeper into Prison Work: Part 2

James Ouma
Posted January 31, 2019 from Kenya
Lifesong Kenya Program
A long lasting solution has to be found when crime happens, it hurts, harms and tears families and communities apart

Two days later, something happened that threatened to scuttle my plans. Not for the first time, I feared and panicked. Had my wife not been there, I would have called the cycling off. I got a long call and knew right from the beginning of the call that things were not going to happen as we had planned.


"I am not coming with you," a friend who had encouraged me to carry on said. "I am also afraid you won't be having tents to sleep in during your ride."


This was devastating news. It came a few minutes after the churches - one after the other - said they weren't going to allow us to pitch tents on their grounds and get meals. This meant that we were going to use the same money people had begun contributing on our fundraiser. I felt a twitch and a tug in my heart. My right hand - the one not holding my cell phone - trembled as I continued ticking off the things and people I had written on list of resources and personnel.


Some of the cyclists who had pulled out of the 500 KM bike ride were accomplished cyclists with experience on fixing and maintaining bikes. Luckily, they had trained us during our Sunday long bike rides and I knew they weren't coming due to work commitments. I was left with a team of 7, meaning we were 8 in total.


My wife was going to offer support - driving behind the most slowest cyclist at any given time. Apart from Nyawira - the second lady in our team - and Sam, the rest of us had never cycled 500 KM. In fact, two of our members had trained with us for two weeks and only one had cycled a full 100 KM. As I kept nodding my head during the phone call, I made up my mind to strike off two more names from our team.


Grabbing a fist of air


I called my wife to the bedroom where I had received the phone call. Before I told her what was going on, I made a call to the only cycling female on our team. I ranted on and on, listing the emerging challenges our cycling team was facing. She seemed calmed and unperturbed.


"All I know," she said, "is that we are going to have a fun ride. The more challenges we face the better because it means we are going to have pure fun!"


"Okay," I replied, knowing it wasn't okay at all.


"Relax James," Nyawira continued, "God has got us covered. Everything is happening the way it should!"


Even before I told my wife what was going on, she already knew I had received bad news from my previous call. I told her I was going to chop off one name from my list. We walked to the sitting room to have breakfast. Usually, our meal time is filled with laughter. That morning, a heavy tension hung in the air. If you walked into the room you could actually reach out and grab fistfuls of it. 


"Let's dig in," my wife said.


She had made very delicious pancakes and served fruits and did her very best. However, I we chewed and swallowed our food in silence. The two young men did not touch their cups or food. It took me close to 10 minutes before I could find my voice. Everything seemed to freeze in mid air as I opened my mouth. I was in a dilemma and dropping one of these boys or both of them wasn't something I was comfortable doing.


For the past few weeks, I had encouraged them to keep training. I had told them that it was possible to achieve great things and that I believed in their ability to pull it off. Yet, here I was preparing to drop one of them from the team. The only justification I had was that I was going to be able to afford to feed and accommodate more people after we failed to get tents and a place where we could pitch camp and get free meals. 


I knew how difficult it was going to be for them to come to terms with what I was just about to do. They had told their family and friends about the cycling and it was going to be an uphill task to explain the reason why they had been dropped from our team. I set my cup on the table and made sure I wasn't chewing anything.


"Guys," I said, "it has been long preparing for this and we now have one day remaining! Welcome to our Half Way Cycle Team and let's take it easy today as we prepare for a long time on the saddle tomorrow! Because we are supposed to be in church at 6 am tomorrow in the morning, feel free to bring your stuff over so we can sleep under the same roof."


Getting our chase car branded


I had spent the previous day branding the car. I drove off to town to complete the branding. As I waited inside my friend's office - the one who had offered to brand our car, design banners and fliers for free in support of our fundraiser - I didn't know that our car had been clamped by the Nairobi City Council officials. I sat inside the office, gleefully munching chapatis and drinking the 10 am tea that all employees at the printing firm were having. 


It was not until my bladder got full and I needed to pee that I went to the toilet and discovered that my car had been clamped.....

Comments 2

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Jill Langhus
Jan 31, 2019
Jan 31, 2019

Hi James,

Thanks for sharing the second part of your cycling fundraiser story. I love Nyawira's optimism and attitude, however. It sounds to me like you could've used more female cyclists to me:-)

J Brenda Lanyero
Feb 04, 2019
Feb 04, 2019

Hi James,
I love the zeal and all the team. We need more of Nyawira in the team and more men to do this kind of thing you are doing. Thank you for what you are doing.