An Illinois College exchange student is gearing up for a big bike ride this summer to help build homes and raise awareness about affordable housing.
Twenty-four-year-old Noah Rieger is from Germany and has been studying at IC for the past year. He’ll be riding over 42-hundred miles across the country through a non-profit organization called Bike and Build.
The route will begin in Charleston, South Carolina on May 22nd. Rieger will go with about 30 other bikers, staying in tents, churches, schools and community centers.
Rieger says the group will have a ten-day period of cycling, an off day, then participate in what are called “build days”.
“We’ll pretty much travel or cycle from project to project, and these projects are from Habitat for Humanity. We’ll really as a group go and help for a day or two, paint a whole building or get something done, and then we’ll move on to the next project and do that throughout the country,” says Rieger. “But then in Colorado, we’ll actually stop for ten days and build an entire house.”
There are several other groups that will take different cross-country routes as part of the project.
Rieger says he was inspired to do this several years ago by an American friend. He spent a year volunteering in a special needs home in Vermont after high school.
“I really enjoy helping people, and whenever we will hand the key to their new home, to the people, I can already see their happy faces, and I really enjoy that,” Rieger says. “It really combines my passion for cycling and outdoor adventure as well as carpentry, which I’ve been doing for years.”
Rieger says he’s excited to explore the southern part of the U.S. As he mentioned, the route will shift north as the team will help build a house in Pueblo, Colorado. Rieger hopes his biking experience has prepared him for the trip.
“I’ve done a lot of cycling in Germany. I ride my bike every day, 20 kilometers pretty much every day,” he says. “I’ve done a couple trips, I’ve done, like, half the country, but Germany fits twice in Texas, so it’s definitely going to be a lot more.”
To participate, each cyclist must raise $4,500. The proceeds go towards funding the affordable housing projects. Rieger, who has raised 47 percent of that goal so far, says the local support has been great.
“People are so interested here and so supportive. Literally everybody I tell is really interested and thinks it’s a great cause,” he says. “I think here also, since fundraising is much more a part of the American culture than it is in Germany, here I’ve experienced a lot more support from the American and here from the Jacksonville community and especially from Illinois College.”
To donate to the Bike and Build project or find out more about it, click here.
There are more than 14 million families living below the poverty line in the U.S., and as Rieger points out, many cannot even afford decent shelter, let alone a home.
Rieger says the plan is to arrive in Santa Cruz, California by August 10th. He and his fellow bikers will dip their bike tires in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as a way of signifying the beginning and end of the journey.