Dear Friends, I’m writing to bring you up-to-date with my young friend Geminy Maw who is still pedalling hard on her return journey from Berlin. Gem has had a real adventure, some good times some not so good but knowing Gem she is still smiling! Her emblem Spreading Smiles Across the Miles suits her so well!
Just to remind you – Gem only returned from New Zealand in February this year when she announced: ‘My next mission and how I am Spreading Smiles Across The Miles….. a solo cycling trip to Berlin and Back to build Joy Clinic, first point medical centre and midwifery unit at St James!’ Through her infectious enthusiasm and love for Uganda Gem had already gained the money for a borehole at St James which was installed in September 2014 providing safe drinking water for many people!
I’m sure some of you have been checking her blog at http://www.ssatm.wordpress.com but if not I will give you a very brief taster!
Norman and I said goodbye to Gem at Stockport Station on May 6th with a bike heavily laden with amongst other things a tent, clothes, repair kit and tools including a spare tyre, and of course lots of stickers, sponsor forms and a flag she had designed herself attached to the back of her bike! She had spent many weeks training and gathering together everything she needed for her challenge.
Gem caught a ferry over to the Netherlands where she found it very bike friendly with easy to follow cycle paths and flat with many fellow cyclists to keep her company so she made lots of friends. She headed north to Oldenburg in Germany to avoid the main roads. With her flag flying from her bike people often stopped her, asking about the trip. A German teacher Gem had met on the ferry invited her to go to stay in her home. When she reached the town Gem couldn’t find the address but was rescued by the local opera singer who showed her right to the door. She said everyone was so friendly. This lady took her to spend a day at the local high school where she shared with the children all about her travels around the world, her present challenge & of course Uganda. They asked her many questions and then pretending to be newspaper reporters wrote articles about her!
Each night Gem had to find somewhere to sleep and mostly these were beautiful places in the countryside where she would pitch her tent. They call this freedom camping. She describes in her blog how she saw lots of different creatures but also how she was attacked by mosquitoes so had to get into her tent fast once she had pitched it!
One night she woke up to hear loud running in the undergrowth and felt very scared.
Then there was a loud roar followed by many other roars. Gem stayed quiet hoping whatever it was would go away. Then she plucked up courage to peep out of her tent to find an enormous stag deer looking for its mate! Often as she rode along animals such as foxes, stoats and rabbits shared her cycle path. She never felt lonely!
She arrived in Bremen after a very long ride and was looking forward to staying in a hostel away from the mosquitoes for a change but then disaster struck, she got her front wheel stuck in a tram track, wobbled and the heavily loaded bike went down hard on her left arm. Fortunately an x ray showed there were no broken bones but Gem was unable to ride her bike for three weeks. She made the most of these unfortunate circumstances having met some more lovely people when she had had her accident. She was interviewed for a newspaper, got involved in making a film, worked in a refugee camp with refugees from Syria and other war torn countries.
Eventually Gem arrived in Berlin where she hit a heatwave. She took time off cycling to visit all the famous sites including the Holocaust Memorial which she found very moving.
A new friend painted a giant picture of her Spreading Smiles Across the Miles emblem on part of the Berlin Wall! She got involved in many other activities and seems to have found every music group, get-together, festival big and small. One was called the Welcome Festival where she really did feel welcome and enjoyed the music and dance and the unusual lifestyles of many of the people she met. Gem was in her element!
Gem is now on her way home and is back in the netherlands and heading to Delft where she will spend a few days with relatives before her last leg home. She hopes to be back in Macclesfield by the 1st of August and I will be there to meet her along with the local newspapers I hope!
I suggested to Vernon Primary School that they might like to do their own Bicathon in support of Gem and on Monday 13th July they raised just over £50. It was the late Mrs Dee Cooper at Vernon School that first supported Gem’s grandmother Maria Maw’s work in Uganda in 2002 when I had my first visit there. Then in 2008 the present head teacher Mrs Carvell, took on the challenge to build St James! So the school’s support for Gem, Maria’s granddaughter, is very appropriate! The day of the bikeathon was also the 65th birthday of James Mutyaba, head teacher of St James Junior School!
Thanks to all of you who have already sponsored Gem but she has a long way to go before she can reach her target so please, if you can possibly donate some money it would show Gem just how much her endeavours mean to everyone. Joy Clinic now has a roof on the two small wards and all the money Gem raises will go towards more building work. With your help, brick by brick we will complete the building of Joy Clinic! Get in touch if you would like to know how to donate…..please!
Another of Gem’s favourite sayings:
SMILES ARE INFECTIOUS SO LETS INFECT THE WORLD!