On a picture-perfect Friday, the Andean Health Foundation fund-raiser rode through Olivet Sept. 15 as part of a five-day, 500 mile bike ride from Madison, Wisconsin to South Bend, Indiana, to celebrate the 20 year anniversary as a non-profit public health system located in rural Central America.
“I enjoy coming back here. I usually make it back once a year, but I’ll be back in two weeks for Homecoming. It’s a great time to be back. We hit the weather great today,” said Dave Cutler, Olivet College alum of 1965, who is an activist for Andean Health.
The 25 bike riders were greeted by the Comet Marching Band, and roughly 100 students and faculty while riding into town. “I’m really surprised. I didn’t expect this,” said Cutler.
The annual bike ride, which is in its sixth year, has taken place across the country while each year getting more and more elaborate. The longest ride was 1,300 miles from Seattle, Washington, to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
In 2016, a team rode through Glacier National Park, Montana. Andean Health has even ridden to the summit of Mount Evans, Colorado’s highest mountain, located in the front range of the Rocky Mountains.
Andean Health has operated two hospitals in rural Ecuador for the past 20 years. Both hospitals serve an estimated 470,000 people, according to Andean Health Founder David Gaus, who was one of the 25 riders in Olivet.
Today, Ecuador is in an epidemiological transition.
“It’s the old things that used to cause a lot of suffering and mortality like complicated child births, infectious disease and motor accidents. All those things are still around, but with people living longer cardiovascular disease, chronic disease, depression, and diabetes is becoming a much larger issue in these communities while the world continues to involve,” said Gaus about the current issues in Ecuador.
Without Olivet’s connection with Cutler, this event with Andean Health would have never been possible.
“Things are about networks and relationship. Many of the people who are involved with Andean Health are involved bcause of Dave Cutler – who share a common connection to Olivet College. He has been committed to the Andean mission from Madison to South Bend,” said President Steven Corey, who was also part of ride.
On campus fund-raisers were also held in conjunction with the event.