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Owen Sounder cycling to end violence against women

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Joachim Ostertag will be doing a lot of pedaling and a lot of talking on his seven-week journey from Owen Sound to Vancouver, B.C.

The 60-year-old program supervisor of the Men’s Program (Grey-Bruce) says he plans to speak with as many people, organizations and agencies in as many communities as possible during his 5,300-kilometre “Change the Cycle” solo bicycling tour, which is aimed at raising awareness and money to help end violence against women.

“Just by talking about it, change will happen,” he said Friday.

The Owen Sound man intends to leave the Men’s Program office Thursday at noon. He said he hopes other cyclists will meet there at 11:30 a.m. and accompany him on his way out of the city.

His goal is to reach the west coast Aug. 10. He will be part of a bicycle rally through Vancouver and to a memorial stone at Crab Park for missing and killed women from the city’s Downtown Eastside.

While on the road, Ostertag plans to blog and post images online.

Local artist Kyle Haight will use those posts as the basis for a painting, which he will add to once a week as Ostertag makes his way across the country.

“This painting is an ongoing piece that happens while Joachim is biking and I start to either incorporate symbolic conceptual ideas that represent his journey or actual visual reinterpretations of photographs that he takes along the way,” Haight said.

People who sponsor Ostertag’s cycle, with a minimum donation of $25, will receive a tax receipt and a ballot that will be put into a draw to win Haight’s finished painting.

All proceeds from “Change the Cycle” will support Men’s Program services.

Ostertag, who has worked for more than 23 years with men who have abused women, said he plans to speak to people at every stop — even if he’s just going into a store to get some food — as well as at rallies, meetings and special events.

He said he will collect and post personal accounts from people who have been affected by male violence as well as inspiring stories about change and hope.

The goal, he said, is to increase the conversation and raise awareness about male violence against women.

“I want to engage people in thinking about what can be done different, what do men need to do different? Like, for instance, how we raise our boys. That’s one of the biggest things,” he said.

Ostertag said he also wants to raise awareness about how men can be the change.

“We often call it a women’s issue but it’s actually a men’s issue. If you want to end violence against women, it’s men who need to step up,” he said.

“We know that most men are not violent towards women so it’s really important that those men, who are not abusive, that they also take a stand.”

Staff at the Men’s Program in Owen Sound see about 300 men each year. It offers a men’s group for men who have been abusive towards women and a dad’s group, which is a counselling service for fathers.

Ostertag will cycle in five provinces and three American states. Part of his travels will include the 800-kilometre “Highway of Tears” between Prince George and Prince Rupert, B.C., where many women, especially First Nations women, have been killed or are missing.

An estimated 60 to 70 women are killed in Canada each year by a current or former male partner.

Haight’s 72-by-60-inch painting, which is expected to be worth $4,500, will be given away during a jazz party Sept. 13 at Gallery de Boer in Owen Sound. Tickets are $20.

People can sponsor Ostertag’s “Change the Cycle” campaign by visiting www.changethecycletour.org or by writing a cheque to Bruce Grey Child and Family Services Foundation/Change the Cycle.

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