A Change of Guard

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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Senior’s cycling journey to help support Cambodian schools starts and ends at Kenora

Seventy-year-old Armin Kluge has used Kenora as a critical point for his cycling tour across Canada as he raises money for a school in Cambodia. JON THOMPSON PHOTO

By Jon Thompson

It was two o' clock in the morning when Armin Kluge stepped off the train in Redditt, into the wilderness that would lead him back to Toronto. The next morning, his mind was on the Cambodian students he would help attend school as he mounted his bicycle and his trek began.

That was a year ago and on Friday, he saw Kenora at the end of that journey.

At 70 years old, cycling across Canada was becoming a "now-or-never" prospect for the pensioner. Kluge pedalled all the way to Toronto, went back to Angkor Peak Sneng Junior High School built by his childhood friend from Germany for the third year in a row and started training immediately upon his return. This spring the second leg of the trip began in front of the lens of a CBC camera in Vancouver's Stanley Park. Making it back to Kenora made him reflect on his renewed faith in humanity that has motivated him to keep going.

"I've had a tremendous experience," he said. "It has helped me grow. It has reinforced my strong belief that we, as a society, as humanity, are making good progress to make the world a better place."

Kluge had set himself the goal of fundraising a dollar for every kilometre of road he covered. With Ontario and the West now covered, he is bringing in far above that, giving an opportunity for Cambodian children to attend school at $300 CDN each.

"It grows on you," he said of the rural, South Asian town.

"The need those children have — for us, it feels like the stone age. The village where the school is built doesn't even have electricity. Words are difficult to describe but those people are not unhappier than we are and they have absolutely nothing."

He stayed in Kenora for a couple of days over the weekend to meet local people and pass along the knowledge and experience he gained over the course of his ride.

"I like to do my part to give people inspiration for what I, as a single human being with no special qualities can accomplish when I set my mind to it," he said.

For more information or to contribute to the campaign, visit www.helpcambodianschool.org


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