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Ride to raise awareness, funds for education in Africa

Date: 8/16/2011

Aug. 17, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WEST SPRINGFIELD — A local woman is gearing up to ride 500 miles to raise awareness of and funds for the education needs of a tiny African nation.

Karen Hardy, president of the non-profit organization, Educate Malawi Inc., will depart on Sept. 1 on an eight-day trek that will take her from West Springfield into Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and finally, back to her home town.

“It’s the longest ride I’ve attempted,” Hardy told Reminder Publications by e-mail while visiting in country. “Being in Malawi for two and a half weeks before I’m scheduled to start riding is making me a bit anxious for preparations, but I will have 10 days when I get back home to get a bit of training in before I start.”

Hardy readily admitted she is not a hard-core bike enthusiast, but has ridden as far as 100 miles on past Malawi fund raisers. She said one of her reasons for undertaking this ride is to raise awareness for her organization and its purpose among the people she will meet along her route.

Hardy said her financial goal for the ride is to raise $10,000 to complete the two-room addition to Namitsitsi primary school in the District of Zombia that her organization has been funding. She is also hoping to provide more scholarships to young Malawi women wishing to become teachers.

Before she left for Malawi, Hardy said she’d collected about $2,000 toward her goal and received inquiries from a few individuals, but no firm commitments to ride with her.

Individuals interested in riding all or a portion of the route with Hardy — or donating to her cause — can do so by visiting and clicking on the “Karen’s ride for Malawi” tab.

This year’s ambitious trek represents the third bike fund raiser Hardy has undertaken in support of Educate Malawi, Inc., which she, her husband Stephen and daughter Shannon Massey founded in 2008, a year after she and Massey spent two months living in the small southeast African country bordered by Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. That trip, Hardy said, was prompted by her daughter’s experiences with the children in Malawi during a school-sponsored visit to the country in 2005, when she was 16.

“We decided we wanted to help in the area of education because we felt that we could support [the children of Malawi] in that area sufficiently and that education is an important foundation for the advancement of any country,” Hardy said of her decision to found Educate Malawi, Inc. “As time has gone on we have met many people doing similar work and we want to assist and develop ways to help the people to sustain themselves; we are learning from others doing the same.”

Hardy said her previous three rides — which varied in length from10 to 100 miles — raised a total of $8,000 for Educate Malawi.

Hardy added that she and Massey also fund-raise for their organization by selling handcrafts created by the people of Malawi at local craft fairs during the year, as well as at the Cultural Survival Bazaars that take place around New England. She said her daughter’s boyfriend, Tim Lynch, who with his brothers constitute the band, Maverick West, are also making plans to host a benefit concert for Educate Malawi in the near future.

Individuals interested in keeping up with the progress of Hardy’s organization can sign up for a newsletter on the Educate Malawi Web Site.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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