Friends bike across country for African girls’ school

Friends bike across country for African girls’ school

Olivia Gregorius, right, and Emma Lutz, left, are hoping to raise awarness for female empowerment on their bike journey across the country. Photo from Gregorius

A Northport native is biking across the United States to raise money and awareness for an organization that builds schools in Africa.

Olivia Gregorius, a 2011 Northport High School graduate, kicked off her cross-country adventure in Vancouver about three weeks ago and said she is determined to finish at the Mexican border by July.

“I feel good so far,” she said in a phone interview. ”My body hurts horribly, but I feel good.”

Gregorius is a volunteer with the organization Africa Schoolhouse, a nonprofit that brings education, medical care, job training and clean water to rural villages in northern Tanzania. Her journey was designed to raise money for the newest ASH project: an all-female boarding school. Gregorius said she hopes to promote female youth empowerment while on the journey.

“This mission to help females so far away who deserve an equal and safe education space is something we believe is very important,” she said. “I truly believe that the way we teach and treat young females is key to shaping a more progressive and healthy society both locally and abroad.”

She also said it is important to acknowledge the privileges she’s been afforded that other women aren’t as lucky to receive.

“We, as young women who have had the distinct privilege of a college education, want to give back to the many girls around the world who struggle to access basic education,” she said. “We want to empower ourselves as young women going on a self-supported trip of 2,000 miles with the ultimate goal of supporting as many other young women as possible to believe themselves capable and worthy of any achievement.”

Africa Schoolhouse began in Ntulya, Tanzania, in 2006, when village elders approached founder Aimée Bessire with the idea of building a school and medical clinic. ASH successfully built the school and medical clinic, and now the organization is shifting its focus on getting women a safe and efficient education.

Gregorius said only 1 percent of Tanzanian girls complete secondary school for reasons including families who privilege the education of sons over daughters, girls being married off at young ages and unsafe journeys to school due to incomplete or unfinished roads, or the risk of assault while traveling long spans of distance on their own.

This wasn’t the first time Gregorius worked on projects associated with female empowerment. During her first year at Bates College in Maine, she helped develop a college-access mentoring program for Lewiston, Maine, middle school females. She also worked at an overnight teen empowerment camp in 2013, where she developed classes pertaining to girls’ youth empowerment, outdoor education, wellness and the arts.

Gregorius is traveling with Emma Lutz, a fellow Bates graduate, and so far the team has already raise more than $3,000. To make a contribution or learn more, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/emma-and-livs-bike-tour-from-canada-to-mexico.

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