The Otesha Project
Though the sentiment that ‘the world is full of amazing opportunities if only you’re willing to grab them’ is cliché, it is also very true. The Otehsa project, created by Jocelyn Land-Murphy and Jessica Lax is one of those very opportunities.
That is, if you like cycling around 1,000 km over Canada.
The Otesha Project started ten years ago on Feb.16. The two founders were in Kenya, on a field learning course abroad and noticed some of the stark differences of the lifestyles of the people of the community they were visiting.
The two founders Land-Murphy and Lax noticed that the way that people live in Canada, as well as other privileged countries, has an impact on the way people live in other areas of the world. “They came back to Canada with that message,” said Kira Burger, outreach and communications co-ordinator for the Otesha Project.
“Then they thought, what would be the best way to spread this message of what we’ve learned,” she continued. “And they [thought] why don’t we organize a cross country bicycle trip, and we’ll do theatre presentations to engage Canadians on this issue of how every choice that we make in our daily life has an impact. And how can we be conscientious about the impact that it has.”
At each designated stop along the trip, the volunteers of the Otesha Project perform an interactive 45-minute play at schools or community centres to help engage people of all ages on pressing global issues.
“Although I’d hope my 1,000 km journey inspired and made people aware of the issue,” said Lyndia Stacey, fourth-year engineering student at the University of Guelph, “It’s up to every individual to bring about global change.”
A lot of cycling participants in the project are university or college students on their summer breaks, though the ages do range from the cut off points of age 18 to 30 — though the 30 mark is flexible. “On the tour that I just did,” Burger said, “the the youngest participant actually graduated high school early in order to come on the trip with us. Our oldest participant was 28, I think, so it does span everywhere in between.”
The trips for the cyclists range every year from being in Ontario to the east and west coast and on similar but not identical routes.
“On a trip there’s about 16 people,” Burger explained. “[And] the way that it works is there’s a fundraising contribution for participating on the tours and that fundraising contribution covers the cost of food and accommodations and costs incurred while on tour.”
However, tour members are responsible for ensuring they have their own gear such as bike bags and other cycling products.
The Otesha Project also allows a wide variety of biking abilities.
“In fact,” Burger said, “On the last tour I did, we had someone who hadn’t ridden their bicycle since they were in elementary school to someone who had done multiple bike trips internationally. Our tours are designed in such a way that it starts off at a slower pace and moderate distances and builds up to the longer days.”
“I think it’s a really cool idea,” said Blake Jones, a fifth-year student at Huron Heights secondary school in Kitchener.
“I would want to be in a group of people that all do it together, but yeah that sounds sick.”
Applications to join The Otesha Project are found online at www.otesha.ca and the cut-off time for applicants is March 1. The ride will take place from May 1 to June 21.