Posted 25 August 2011, by Dianne Wood, The Record (Metroland Media Group Ltd.) , therecord.com
Colette DeSousa is about to embark on a two-month tour of B.C.’s spectacular sunshine coast.
But the 33-year-old Waterloo woman won’t be following the usual tourist path.
She’ll be bunking down in a tent, not a motel room, each night. And she’ll be travelling by bicycle, not by train, bus or even taxi.
Comfort isn’t the goal of participants in The Otesha Project’s 2011 Sunshine Coast Tour.
The 16 young people DeSousa will be travelling with want to challenge themselves and others, as well as promote environmental and social awareness.
The Otesha Project is a youth-led charitable group that advocates sustainable consumption and global change through individual choices.
DeSousa and several other local women will be pedalling over 1,000 kilometres, beginning in Vancouver and ending in Victoria, B.C. The tour begins Sept. 3 and wraps up on Oct. 24.
DeSousa is already environmentally conscious. She buys her food from local farmers, doesn’t eat meat and is reducing all unnecessary use of paper by reading newspapers and magazines online, for example.
“I‘ve always been an advocate for sustainability and environmental initiative,’’ she said Thursday. “It’s been a passion of mine.’’
In the same spirit, she made her own touring bike for the trip. It was cheaper than buying a new bike and allowed her to use refurbished parts. Recycle Cycles in Kitchener and Backpedalling in Guelph helped.
She’ll be carrying everything she needs for the trip in a bike trailer hooked on the back of her bike.
Last weekend, she loaded up her bike and took it for a 27-kilometre test run. This weekend, she’s aiming for a 75-kilometre ride from Kitchener to Elora and back.
“I’m as prepared as I can be,’’ she said.
Participants will visit 18 B.C. communities. They’ll camp in each place — two to a tent — perform an Otesha play and lead workshops for local youth on how their choices affect the environment and the world.
Each group will make all decisions by consensus — where they will get their food, how they will handle their waste and what routes they should take.
DeSousa expects the tour will “play a relevant part in the way I see the world, and my way in it.
“Braving new challenges and personal limits within myself will be life-altering for me,’’ she predicts.
She likes Otesha’s theme of, “If you want to see change in the world, you have to be the change within — start with yourself making change. Through that, you’ll empower other people to do the same.’’
She hopes to use the skills she gains to advocate for the prevention of sexual violence.
DeSousa had to raise $2,250 for the tour. She’s project administrator for the Arrow Loft condominium project. Her employer has given her a leave of absence for the trip.
Her family is also rooting for her.
“They see how much excitement and joy this has brought to me,’’ she said. “I’ve been moved beyond tears by the level of support I’ve received.’’