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Emotional connection fires ongoing trans-Atlantic charity campaign

Africa has a special place in a local woman's heart.

In 2002, before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Mary Hof, a Catholic, went into a Catholic Church in Arusha, Tanzania.

"They said to me, 'If you end up climbing the mountain, come back and see us,'" the avid hiker and Cowichan Bay local said.

Step by step, as she climbed to the top of the 19,300 foot mountain, she thought a lot about the Africans she'd met before the climb.

"I was incredibly moved by what I'd seen," she said. "I said to myself, 'If I make this, I've got to do something for the people here,'" adding that knowing herself, she would have done something anyway.

Twelve years later, Hof has raised — mainly by collecting bottles — an average of $1,000 per year for a medical dispensary she helped start in Muungaro, a little town outside Arusha. All told, she has collected about $12,000.

And she's about to do more to raise funds for the people and continent she loves.

From Sept. 5 to 7, Hof and 28 other members of the Victoria chapter of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, launched by the Stephen Lewis Foundation in 2006, will cycle from Campbell River to Victoria, covering 264 kilometres.

Those interested in donating to Hof's ride — donations $20 and more are tax deductible — can go to this website and click on the, "Donate To Our Event," icon above the thermometer.

"I'm more of a hiker, I lead hikes, riding a bike is a challenge," Hof said. "I've ridden on the Malahat a number of times.....I've gone on a few hundred kilometre rides, but not three days in a row."

The funds raised support African grandmothers' needs such as transportation, housing, school fees and HIV awareness training among other things.

The GGC was started as a response to what was then an emerging crisis faced by African grandmothers as they struggled to care for millions of children orphaned by AIDS.

What began with only a few groups of committed Canadian grandmothers has since evolved into a dynamic and responsive movement, made up of grandmothers working to mobilize support in Canada for Africa's grandmothers.

The campaign currently boasts more than 240 grandmother groups across the country. Many of the groups have organized into regional and national networks in order to support each other's efforts with African grandmothers and the children in their care.

If you're interested in seeing the group as they cycle through the Cowichan Valley, stop by at the True Grain Bakery in Cowichan Bay on Sept. 7 at 9:15 a.m.

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