Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fundraising deadline: $500 by Tuesday 3/31

Last week, I received a prompt from my handlers at Enduro Africa reminding me of yet another fundraising target and deadline. Having registered and started fundraising late, I thought I would be exempt from these “guidelines.” Not so.

February and March have certainly been excellent months for raising funds, and I send another heartfelt thank you to my friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues who have already answered the call.

I know that there are many others out there who love the idea of me doing EA and who want to contribute to the work that
UNICEF, Sentebale, TouchAfrica and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund are doing in Southern Africa, especially with respect to improving HIV prevention, care, and support to those most vulnerable to the disease.

So, if you haven’t contributed yet,
please do so now. With your help, I’ll make my goal of raising an additional $500 by Tuesday, March 31st.

Best of all, I’m expecting any day now a package of customized, embroidered Enduro Africa t-shirts and I plan to give one to every person who contributes $100 or more to my ride.

So, as they sing in Rent:
No day but today.

And stay tuned. The adventure continues.

Addendum: Only $250 more to go! I'll send everyone who donates between now and tomorrow (3/31) one of my new customized EA tees, regardless the amount! So come one, come all. And thanks.

Addendum 2: Ok, troops. We're down to $150 more to get to my goal. Thanks so much to Kenna and Sara, who just weighed in. Remember: Custom EA tees to anyone who donates between now and tomorrow, regardless of amount! So, step right up. Don't be shy...

Addendum 3: We did it! Thanks to many of you, I raised an additional $650 for EA's charities! I'm just delighted. Tees will be sent to everyone who donated during the 3/31 fund drive. For those of you who missed the deadline, contributions will be welcome through July, when all fundraising ceases. The next target is to get to $3750 sometime in early May. Again, a heartfelt thanks to all who answered the call. As always, stay tuned for pics and updates of my off-road training, trip planning, and assorted news. The adventure continues...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Design for the Other 90%

As a co-track chair for the 2009 National HIV Prevention Conference, I traveled to the CDC in Atlanta on Sunday for the second time in a month to sort through scientific abstracts and to create coherent conference sessions with my colleagues that highlight – and, hopefully, stimulate further – advances in HIV prevention in the U.S. It’s been a ton of work, but it has also been a great opportunity to meet and interact with some of the most accomplished people in the fight to curb the epidemic here in the States and beyond. And the CDC is always an interesting place to visit.

Best of all, I happened upon a new technology installation at the CDC's
Global Health Odyssey Museum entitled “Design for the Other 90%,” and that greeted visitors with the following statement:
“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”—Dr. Paul PolakInternational Development Enterprises

The CDC's installation, which runs until May 29th, makes the case effectively that, because of poverty, 90% of the world’s population has limited or no access to the most basic commodities critical to public health and wellbeing. It showcases 30 collaborative projects developed by designers, engineers, and social entrepreneurs to create affordable solutions that increase the availability of healthful foods, clean water, healthcare, education, affordable transportation, and shelter.
Design for the Other 90% showcases designs that incorporate new and traditional materials, and abandoned and emerging technologies to solve myriad problems—from cleaner-burning sugarcane charcoal to a solar-rechargeable battery for a hearing aid, from a portable water-purification straw to a low-cost laptop. By understanding the available resources and tools as well as the lives and needs of their potential users, these designers create simple, pragmatic objects and ingenious, adaptive systems that can help transform lives and communities.
– CDC Global Health Odyssey Museum

In fact, one of the innovations highlighted is the LifeStraw, which is an inexpensive, portable, personal water filtration device distributed by TouchAfrica, one of beneficiaries of Enduro Africa 2009.

To learn more about this incredible work, visit the installation online at
Design for the Other 90%.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Closing in on off-road training schools

Finally found an option for learning to ride in the dirt, mud, and muck. The school has a good reputation and the fees are about what I'd expect them to be. The trouble is, attendees must supply their own bikes. Anyone out there have an old, 250 - 400 cc beater I can muddy up for a weekend? Anyone? Anyone? (No?)

There's another school in Virginia, out by Luray Caverns, that supplies bikes. Hopefully, I'll hear from them soon too. 
----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Dirtwise Riding School
To: Andrew Forsyth
Sent: Sunday, March 15, 2009 9:59:21 PM
Subject: RE: Mid-Atlantic area rider trainings??

G'day Andrew,

Sorry for the delay in replying.

Your MTBing experience will give you an added advantage to being able to control an offroad motorcycle, as opposed to some one with no experience at. Nothing beats being out there on the trails gaining first hand experience though!

What you have listed below are the "mid-Atlantic" schools we will be offering for 2009. There are still spots available for these upcoming Dirt Wise schools.

Attached is a registration form for you to use and the event flyers that should answer any further questions that you may have.

Thanks for your interest in the Dirt Wise Academy of Offroad Riding schools.

Shane Watts

Wattsy World, LLC 

From: Andrew Forsyth [mailto:adforsyth @]
Sent: Thursday, March 12, 2009 11:55 AM
Subject: Mid-Atlantic area rider trainings??


I'm so happy I found your site! Here's the deal for me: In October, I'm doing a 2000-km offroad ride through Southern Africa as part of a fundraiser (see way below). 

I've ridden on road for years but I've no dirt riding experience! And I suspect that my years of mountain biking will not generalize well to throwing 250 - 300 lbs around beneath me. 

And I'm in the Washington, DC area and there's nothing nearby that seems to offer rider training. 

I see that you offer a few trainings that are relatively nearby and that are on weekends that could work for me (see below). Can you advise on availabilities on these dates, or whether any other mid-Atlantic trainings are planned between now and summer? 

  • Apr 10/11 (Fri/ Sat) Penhook , VA
  • May 2/3 Meriden , CT
  • July 11/12 Romney , WV
  • Aug 28/29 (Fri/Sat) Ithaca , NY

I look forward to hearing from you. 


Andrew Forsyth

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gates Foundation contracts, yet increases grants 15%

Earlier this year at Davos, Bill Gates reported a loss of 20% in his foundation's assets in 2008 yet unveiled plans to increase grant awards by 15% to $3.8B in 2009. But isn't that the same sort of planned obsolescence that defines the industry from which BMGF's vast resources were amassed?

It is. Sort of. For Gates, investing in projects that reap significant, near-term, societal benefits in education and prevention of HIV, malaria, and TB is more important than that the foundation remain intact or in its current form for 100 years or more (Unless it changes course, its lack of attention to climate change may ensure that there's no risk of the latter -- thanks, Lance, for the link). In many respects, the strategy reflects an admirable degree of optimism about innovation and its potential implementation and impact.

But more important than maximizing the foundation's life span, according to Gates, is the need for philanthropy especially in times of economic hardship:
I am impressed by individuals who continue to give generously even in these difficult times. I believe that the wealthy have a responsibility to invest in addressing inequity. This is especially true when the constraints on others are so great. Otherwise, we will come out of the economic downturn in a world that is even more unequal, with greater inequities in health and education, and fewer opportunities for people to improve their lives. - Bill Gates

It's easy to forget that, despite all of the setbacks we're likely to see from the economic crisis in the States and the rest of the
G20, things will only be worse elsewhere. And you and I, dear readers, are the Bill and Melinda Gateses in the eyes of the world's poorest and most vulnerable to HIV, even now with the economy as it is.

So please, consider making a donation today to my Enduro Africa ride and fundraiser (or give to any other international charity).

E-mail me to learn how, or simply use your favorite credit card with my handy and secure PayPal widget.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Delivering care by motorcycle

Here's an inspiring story about the origins of Riders for Health, an organization committed to providing health care workers in remote areas with off-road motorcycles and the skills to maintain them. In ways, Enduro Africa seeks to emulate aspects of Riders for Health.
"It must be the only intervention that actually saves money," says [Riders cofounder] Andrea Coleman. "One health care worker with a motorcycle can have a profound effect on 20,000 people."

This segment on Riders for Health's
transportation program in The Gambia highlights the use of motorcycles to help provide reliable transportation to clinics and hospitals.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Forget everything you think you know about fundraising

Who, in their right mind, volunteers for a major fundraising effort in the midst of the most dismal economic climate of the past 100 years, when job uncertainties are mounting, stocks are tanking, and the perception of relative wealth is dissipating rapidly? I often ask myself this very question.

And if you are like me, raising funds for worthy causes can be difficult enough, even in good economic times. Why should that be? Is it the asking for help? Is it the wondering if I’m a sufficiently convincing spokesperson for the cause? Or perhaps it is the waiting while potential donors exercise their rights to choose – this charity over that one, this amount or that, now or later?

But the more I learn, the more I realize that there may be no better time for a challenge like this. A
recent article in the blogosphere really helped put it all into perspective:
Too many of us have forgotten that the ancient practice of giving and receiving of gifts has the power to transform the lives of individuals, institutions and communities, and even connect us to what is divine in the world

The author goes on to suggest that inspired fundraising for worthy charities can:
  • Help those in need to break free of the cycle of poverty, violence and oppression they might face, reminding them there are those who still care.
  • Help donors express personal values, developing a sense of abundance and generosity by learning they have enough to share.
  • Reduce isolation in communities by connecting people who share common values, providing them opportunities to organize for social change.
  • Create sustainable financial support for organizations that have strong community need, yet often little or no perceived for-profit market value.
  • Through opening hearts to the cycle of giving and receiving, connect people to something larger than themselves, which is the core of every spiritual tradition.
Interesting. Fundraising as the act of giving people the opportunity to put personal values into practice. In one fell swoop, many of the hardest aspects of fundraising for me are dispatched cleanly and efficiently.

In the coming weeks, I’ll add posts about the four charities that will benefit from Enduro Africa 2009, including UNICEF, Sentebale, TouchAfrica, and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. And I’ll write more about the personal challenges of fundraising as I make progress toward my goals.

Please, stay tuned. The adventure continues.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Emily Oster on AIDS in Africa

TED Talks Emily Oster discusses the AIDS epidemic in Africa from an economic perspective and concludes that much of what is known about the epidemic there is wrong.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Escape from San Francisco

On Monday, I departed DC for Atlanta, San Francisco, and then back to Atlanta for a series of very interesting planning or advisory meetings at CDC and UCSF, and a weekend conference in Buckhead, GA. The lowlight of the trip was leaving town still feverish from a nasty flu that later bloomed into the single worst sore throat in the entire recorded history of Andrew Forsyths everywhere.

But here was the trip's clear high point: After taking a number of conference calls on Thursday, I decided to take my weekend early and rented a BMW R1200GS from a local moto rental shop for a quick, nostalgic tour of the Bay Area (By the way, if said moto shop decided to donate to my ride, I'd happily add its link and list it in my donor hall of fame. I'm just saying...). Plotting a course through my old stomping grounds, I eagerly suited up and set off. Destination: Santa Cruz, about 80 miles south as the crow flies.

After several straight days of rain, the weather on Thursday afternoon was perfect: low/mid-60s and cloudless, blue sky. I followed the first waypoint to Pacifica to visit a surfing beach I used to frequent, and then followed the rugged coastline along Montara, Moss Beach, and Half Moon Bay.

From there, I turned inland on Rte 92 and climbed ~1500 feet, heading south on Rt. 35 Skyline Drive, which weaves along the western ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains from one end of the South Bay to the other. It rises and falls another 500 ft along the way. By the time I had reached the turn for Skyline Drive, the bike's onboard computer had registered a 10-degree drop in air temperature. A dense fog shrouded the deserted two-lane road. I switched on the heated grips to the low setting and began clicking through the bike's 6-speed transmission.

The rest of the trip will simply go down as the single best section of riding of my life. Although I was only 60 miles from Santa Cruz, getting there took 3 hours. The switchbacks, some of which required downshifting all the way to first gear, and the tightly twisting roads I selected led past Alice's Restaurant in Skylonda and mountain-biking mecca, Skeggs Point. After switching to Rt 9, I made my way to a rest stop among the 2000-year old, massive redwood trees in Big Basin State Park, where I found myself panting excitedly as I climbed off the bike for a rest stop. It might have been the altitude. But I doubt it.

Keeping the motor in its sweet spot of 3k – 5k RPMs, I cruised briskly through the sleepy hillside communities of Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond, the engine whirring quietly beneath me like a sewing machine (I'll never understand the appeal of Harley Davidsons, whose exhausts are engineered purposefully to loosen riders' and others' fillings). In some sections, the road narrowed so much that it dispensed with centerlines altogether. I kept a sharp eye out for the namesakes of the UC Santa Cruz mascot, which would have served as rather slippery speed bumps, had I hit one.

I arrived in Santa Cruz just as the sun was starting to set, and visited two favorite surfing spots at Steamer Lane and Cowell's. The locals were being treated to clean, 2 – 6 foot sets with nice, open faces. A sea lion surfaced near the impact zone, as if to watch the action from the front row. Predictably, the low tide conditions at Cowell's gave rise to long, right-handed, "party" waves wide enough for 20+ people to surf at the same time without the risk of bowling each other over. For once, I felt no urge to suit up, jump into the 50-degree brine, and paddle out to the lineup. I clicked the bike into gear, and headed out.

After coffee and a pit stop for the bike, I proceeded over the mountain on Rt. 17 and into Silicon Valley, where I visited our former Sunnyvale townhouse, and followed the backroads through Mountain View, Palo Alto, Hillsdale, and San Mateo. I joined Rt 101 just south of SFO for the final leg back to the city.

I closed the parking garage that night, and was nearly the first to enter the next morning. After giving up on last minute plans to meet up with my sister for breakfast, who I'd learned just arrived in Oakland to visit friends, I rode a quick, early tour of Chinatown, Russian Hill, Little Italy, Coit Tower, the Marina, Fisherman's Wharf, the Presidio, and a healthy portion of the 49 Mile Scenic Drive. I returned the moto with 300 more miles on the clock than it had the day before. Both the bike and I would have happily continued on, perhaps over the Golden Gate, up to Mt. Tam, through Mill Valley, San Rafael, and out to Point Reyes Lighthouse.

But I had a plane to catch.

Press Release: April 2009


Bethesda Motorcyclist to Tour Southern Africa for Charities

Bethesda, Maryland- April, 2009 – A Bethesda resident is one of six Americans participating in Enduro Africa, a fundraiser and motorcycle trek through Southern Africa in October that benefits four charities providing HIV prevention, education, and support in the region.

Andrew Forsyth, 43, registered in December for the fundraiser and 2000-km off-road ride organized by UK-based Global Enduro, a social enterprise that seeks to profit from helping others. The 8-day trip begins on October 2nd in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, ancestral home of Nelson Mandela. In signing up, he has committed to raising a minimum of $7,500 in donations.

“This is the first time I’ll have done anything like this,” said Forsyth, “and I’m floored by the tremendous response, words of encouragement, and generous donations from my family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to these incredible charities -- even in the midst of this dismal economic climate.”

An avid motorcyclist for 4 years, Forsyth’s riding experience has been limited to area highways, expressways, and backroads. Except for his years as a mountain biker, he has never ridden off-road. “I know the principles and techniques of riding on two wheels in the dirt, gravel, and muck,” he says, “but there’s a big difference between keeping 25 and 300 pounds of bike under control.” He expects to complete offroad rider training in the coming months.

Forsyth, who is an NIMH program officer in its AIDS Center, works with scientists in the U.S. and beyond to develop, test, and disseminate innovative strategies to stem new HIV infections worldwide.

Recently, he completed a 2-day fund drive that raised an additional $1000 for the charities, bringing him just over the halfway point for the minimum required for participation. “Based on pledges and expressions of interest, I’m expecting record donations. I hope to crush my $10,000 fundraising goal.” Donations will benefit UNICEF, Sentebale, TouchAfrica, and Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

He publishes 2 – 3 updates per week on his blog on HIV prevention and his progress raising funds, planning, and training for the adventure.

Andrew Forsyth, Ph.D. (, 4617 North Chelsea Lane, Bethesda MD 20814.