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wellness

Eighty days of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Nearly 4,200 miles biked and more than $14,000 raised. Feelings of awe, disbelief, joy, sometimes annoyance and always hunger. And a desperately needed water well in Marale, Uganda, built and in use with two more on the way for the neighboring villages of Kitany and Piswa.

Andrew Friedlund '12, Morgan Jones '12 and Andrew's older brother, Matt, equipped their touring bikes with racks, bags, fenders and tools and pedaled out of Boyertown, Pa., on May 30, 2010, for a summer trek across the country—their "Ride for Marale."

The villagers of Marale, Uganda, travel miles every day to get water that most often isn't even clean, leaving the town in a cycle of dehydration and water-related diseases like typhoid, bilharzia, cholera and dysentery. Through an international relief organization called Food for the Hungry, Friedlund learned of the village's plight and decided, along with his brother, to raise awareness and funds for the village of Marale by biking across the country. More than $14,000 was raised toward the $15,000 goal.

"It almost brings me to tears to think about what God has chosen to do through us," says Friedlund.

Even though Morgan Jones didn't own a bike, when his friend began talking about the trip, Jones says he knew it would be a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity. He quickly hopped on board with the Friedlund brothers. The three began training in early 2010 and hit the road in May. "I definitely had my fears going into this trip," says Jones. "My biggest fear was the obvious danger of getting injured on the road. Most cross-country trips have chase cars for this reason. But it really gave me more incentive to be alert and careful," he says.

The trio took the northern route across the U.S., passing through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and finally Washington, where they celebrated their finish in Seattle.

The goal of getting to the West Coast and raising enough money to build three water systems kept them motivated, says Friedlund. Host families in various towns provided pit stops full of encouragement, rest and, best of all, food. They woke up to buttermilk pancakes in Dubuque, Iowa, dined on juicy steaks in Chicago, and learned how to make homemade stromboli at friend Jon Geruntho's '10 apartment near the University of Washington, where he attends graduate school. Meals with host families provided a welcome change from oatmeal bars, bags of Fritos, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Along the way, the bikers encountered people and sights they will never forget, like Irishman Leon McCarron. They met 23-year-old Leon along the roadside in Mitchell, S.D. On his own journey biking around the world, he joined Jones and the Friedlund brothers on the road for two weeks. Leon "had a love for whiskey and he had many life experiences," says Friedlund. "He taught us how to survive on the road on a limited budget. He even lent us a camping stove for a few weeks. We were very sad to leave Leon," Friedlund says.

Crossing the rolling green hills and snow capped peaks of the Big Horn Mountains was tedious and difficult, beautiful, exhilarating and unforgettable, says Jones. Riding the Route 16 scenic byway into Wyoming, they spent a grueling six hours climbing to get to the Powder River pass at 9,666 feet, a 30-mile climb. At that time, "I didn't care about how beautiful everything was, I just wanted to reach the top," he says. After they did, they celebrated, posed for pictures and began the descent—30 miles straight down. This time though, there were no rolling hills, just steep rock formations with an occasional pine tree. "This day has stuck with me because it had a mix of all the extremes we went through over the summer: heat, cold, arduous climbing, fantastic downhills, great surroundings and great company."

In addition to building the water wells, the funds raised by Ride for Marale have allowed Food for the Hungry to develop a plan to guide villagers toward long-term self-sufficiency.

According to Food for the Hungry, 100 percent of household respondents are now able to get safe, clean water. Before the construction of the well, 80.7 percent of households said they fetched water from unsafe sources. Water consumption has also increased significantly, from 67.9 litres per household to 93.4 litres."I saw a problem and I knew that if I united enough people, together we could be a part of the solution. It worked!" says Friedlund modestly.

In addition to helping the people of Marale, both Friedlund and Jones learned much about themselves and others during the summer-long journey. Friedlund reaffirmed his tendency to be task-driven. "I was always focused on getting to our next destination or doing what needed to be done for our trip," he says. Meeting all kinds of people along the way, he also learned that even the worst people, if given the right opportunity, are good.

While Jones learned that he is capable of more than he ever thought, he also discovered a little something about his taste buds. "I learned that
I really don't like peanut butter. Eating peanut butter sandwiches for lunch 80 days in a row can do that to you."

At press time funds were still being collected to reach the $15,000 goal. To read more about the Ride for Marale, visit www.ridemarale.blogspot.com.

click here to view a gallery of photos from Ride for Marale

Photos courtesy of Andrew Friedlund '12 and Morgan Jones '12


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