Anja Rietdorf wants to make the world a brighter place.
Three years ago, the German national immigrated to Canada as a live-in caregiver only to find herself out on the street when her job did not work out as planned.
She was alone in a new country with limited language skills and no friends she could call on for help. And all she could think about was how she would love to cycle across Canada and see the great country she had dreamed of joining.
“I just focused on this dream, this goal,” she said, explaining how the whiff of hope her cross-country ride provided kept her going as she found new work, a new community and new connections.
Today, she is making the dream a reality, and she has chosen to use the opportunity to help sick and physically disabled children, those who equally need hope to thrive, a chance to fulfill a dream.
The Sunshine Foundation has been granting great wishes since 1987, billing itself as a “dream-maker” for over 7,000 kids across the country—one might say, fulfilling their hearts’ desires.
Beginning in May, Rietdorf will cycle across Canada to raise funds for the charity and, rather conveniently, her support crew will be researching our collective connection to the heart, and to love, as they roll across the country.
Anja’s Ride launches at Mile 0 in Victoria and she and her travel companions, artist and writer Kim Lake and poet Rawle Iam James, will be asking Canadians from coast to coast about the meaning of love.
“I want to really focus on the young,” said James. “What do they think love is?”
James is a poet, coffeehouse barista, and football coach who has been looking for an opportunity to do a soul-searching sojourn or a large walkabout. Lake is a writer, and friend to Rietdorf and James, who had the artistic prowess to really pull all their strings of ideas and talents together.
And so, the artists and rider will set out on a cross-country venture to spread the love, so to speak.
The effort is in support of those who have disabilities and their families, who often need a break or respite themselves.
“We forget (these people) quite often because we don’t see the families all the time,” explained Rietdorf.
Her brother has a developmental disability and epilepsy and she knows it can take toll on families to support someone with unconventional abilities or serious illness. She would like to bring awareness to the need to reach out and support these families.
Rietdorf is no stranger to the type of grandiose adventures she is about to launch. Some 14 years ago, she took a couple years off work to discover what she wanted to do with her life while living in the Canary Islands.
While relaxing in her home-away-from-home, she was asked to do some gardening for a friend. One thing led to another and she quickly developed a very successful landscaping business that she sold with a roster of 58 clients before moving to Canada.
She is hoping this cross-country venture unearths a few dreams for herself, as well.
“I am totally open and I know the world is out there just waiting for me,” she said.
Like most dream ventures, she knows her path will likely have a few bumps in the road. In fact, it’s likely to have a few flat tires.
Thankfully, Kelowna’s robust cycling community has offered up plenty of feedback on the types of tires and bikes needed to tackle such a challenge.
And on Saturday, April 27 at 7 p.m. in the Lake Country Public Art Gallery, the artistic community will lend a collective hand. There will be a poetry reading event to showcase the art James and Lake have created, raise funds for Rietdorf’s cause and support for her ride. She needs $20,000 for the journey and is hoping to raise $90,000 for the charity.
Stay tuned for more updates on her stop in Kelowna mid-May. Follow her progress or make donations online.