Matthew (Matt) Gamser
My name is Matt Gamser, 66 years old, originally from New York City, currently living in the Washington, DC area, but with significant time spent in a number of other parts of the world. From riding on the handlebars with my parents almost before I could walk, I graduated at age 3-4 to riding a 2-wheel bike (no training wheels), and have been a pretty keen cyclist since. I’ve never been very fast, but I like to explore the area around me by bike, and I’m happy spending hours in the saddle. However, aside from some charity rides of 150+ km, I really haven’t done a long, ambitious expedition since I was a teenager . Riding in support of disabled cyclists from Arlington, Virginia to Frederick, Maryland earlier this year (including Olaf) in the Face of America ride got me very excited about doing more for adaptive cyclists.
Having worked in international development since 1980, and having worked in sub-Saharan African countries since 1982, I’m very excited to have the opportunity to do something to support adaptive cycling and people with disabilities in the region. Bidii Yetu, conceived by my longtime colleague and friend Olaf, is coming at a perfect time in my life for a special challenge. With my “children” (at 36 and 31) pretty self-contained, my work for the International Finance Corporation nearing its end, and wife Anka’s and my home situation stable enough to accommodate my heading off for a 2-month odyssey.
My biggest expectation for Bidii Yetu is to raise awareness of the potential of disabled people throughout southern Africa – to show how much disabled people can do and achieve, given the right support. I also hope that our adaptive cyclists will show that disabled people are not to be pitied, they are to be encouraged and motivated to do more in work, in life, and in recreation.
My biggest concern for Bidii Yetu is not attracting enough attention regarding the potential of the disabled - a group who, in Africa and in many parts of the world, are pushed off into corners or behind closed doors. While not every disabled person can be a Paralympics gold medalist, many can go on to richer, more productive and more fulfilling lives if they are provided with support systems that enable them to work with their disabilities, just as hand cycles are helping our paraplegic athletes on this mission.