Minnesotan Makes 400-Mile African Trek to Fight HIV/AIDS
For most of us a hobby is just that - something to pass the time.
For Michael Fransen, though, riding his bicycle is about so much more.
"I can use my hobby to help people," Fransen said while sitting in the backyard of his Robbinsdale home, his four bicycles propped up behind him.
"I feel very fortunate of what I have and I want to be able to help people that aren't as fortunate," he said.
So this 33 year-old software engineer who never really cared for biking until he was 24 now can't stop talking about a story of two countries, two people, and two languages on two wheels.
"It was amazing," Fransen reflected on his two weeks spent this summer in Zambia, a southern African country slightly bigger than Texas, where one out of every seven adults has HIV or AIDS.
Fransen was the only Minnesotan to take part in a program called "Bike Zambia," which brings bicyclists to Zambia every summer to raise awareness and money during a long bicycle ride. This year was 409 miles and video Fransen took with a helmet camera showed Zambians cheering from the side of the roads.
Despite the warm welcome, Fransen and the others had a nagging feeling during the trip.
"We had guilt," Fransen remembered. "A lot of us just felt really guilty on everything we take for granted, everything we have... To us, bike is just exercise... and to them, it's a game-changer."
Fransen raised more than $5,000 to help HIV-related causes.
The program also builds bicycles to give to Zambians who may have to walk hours or days to the nearest school, clinic, or emergency room.
Life expectancy in the country is only 39 years-old.
"Seeing people that you're helping - you will be inspired. It will - it's well worth it."
When asked whether the ride changed his life, Fransen did not hesitate.
"100 percent," he answered. "Definitely."
How many hobbies do you know that can do that.
Click here to view the Bike Zambia Flickr account.
Click here to read the blog Michael Fransen wrote about his Bike Zambia trip.
Click here to read the blog from the entire group during the Bike Zambia trip.
Click here to see the route map of the 409-mile ride.
Click here to watch a documentary on Bike Zambia from last year
Click here to learn more about the Bike Zambia beneficiaries.