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Feature: Canadians pedal for mothers in Gutu

Some of the riders with Canadian legislators in Ottawa

MUPANDAWANA town in Gutu district and the city of Hamilton in Ontario, Canada, are stark contrasts in terms of size and urban development.

Hamilton is the ninth largest city in the vast expanse of Canada, while Mupandawana, having achieved town status only in 2014, is much less developed.

These striking differences are no match for the shared humanity which binds them.

The divide has been bridged by a shared concern for the plight of mothers at Gutu Mission Hospital.

Nestled on the outskirts of Mupandawana, the hospital plays an indispensable role for a population of 250 000 as the foremost response centre for medical emergencies from 30 satellite clinics dispersed across the district.

Gutu Mission Hospital is owned by the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe, with the maternity wing its busiest department.

It is the only facility in the region equipped for caesarean deliveries, overseeing one-third of all in-hospital deliveries within the district. Beyond its medical services, the hospital also houses a nursing school that underscores its vital role within the community.

Heartbreaking stories of mothers and infants dying because of inadequate training and supplies have sparked an outpouring of empathy and action.

At the forefront of this compassionate response is EMAS Canada, a non-profit Christian medical organisation.

EMAS executive director Peter Agwa visited Zimbabwe in 2015 to assess the needs of Karanda Mission Hospital in Mount Darwin, where EMAS Canada also extends its support by dispatching volunteers for short-term medical mission trips annually.

In 2019, Agwa’s path led him to Gutu Mission Hospital, where he witnessed firsthand the dire state of the hospital’s maternity facilities. A startling statistic added gravity to the situation: Zimbabwe's maternal death rate surpasses Canada's by over 40 times.

The journey from seeing the needs to taking concrete steps towards change culminated in the “Ride for Gutu Mission Hospital”, an extraordinary five-day, 500km cycling fundraiser last September.

The triumphant conclusion saw the cyclists being welcomed by Zimbabwe’s ambassador, Ruth Chikwira, in Canada’s capital Ottawa. The team also engaged local members of Parliament, further amplifying awareness for its cause.

The inaugural ride was a resounding success, with the cyclists raising CA$50 000 (about US$37 000) — above the target fundraising goal of CA$45 000 (about US$33 329).

This year, a team of Canadian and Zimbabwean cyclists will undertake a 200km journey from September 8 to 9.

The aim is to raise CA$60 000 (approximately US$44 445), with the funds earmarked for the renovation of critical hospital infrastructure and the provision of essential training opportunities for staff.

The ride will begin in Dundas, Hamilton, proceed to Port Dover on the shores of Lake Erie and end at the starting point the next day.

The diverse team of cyclists and support volunteers bring a powerful synergy to the cause.

Zimbabwe-born cyclists and support team include Chi Mandivenga, Simbarashe Maphosa, Kudzai Guri and Rebecca Masungo-Muzofa. For them, the ride is deeply personal so is their determination to make a difference.

Complementing this contingent are individuals who, despite never setting foot in Zimbabwe, have rallied wholeheartedly for the cause.

Tracy Robb, Harry Hutten, Nick Scholtens, Dr John Eikelboom, Rob Stehlik, Jonan Agwa, Wally Boonstra, Beata Labikova, Raphael Roter, Gary Aikema, Rommie Vanderboor and Margaret Deweerd bring expertise and a desire to make a positive impact that drives the mission forward.

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