Exclusive Interview with BFI Executive Director Julie Marner

Exclusive Interview

Wondering why 6 of BFI’s very own would choose to ride over 400 miles in the sweltering heat and humidity of the heartland of the US?! Then look no further! We caught up with all 6 of the dedicated Cycling4Burundi teammates to figure out what drove them to participate in this year’s RAGBRAI.

But that’s not all! We also caught up with our Burundian partners to find out what bicycling looks like in the country, and the impact it has on daily life.

Read on while they ride on to discover just what BFI, Bicycling, and Burundi mean to our Cycling4Burundi Team, and to our friends in Burundi!


Our first exclusive interview is with BFI’s Executive Director, Julie Marner:

1. What is your affiliation to BFI?

My first trip to Burundi was in December of 2010 and the following year I returned to Burundi for four months to live with the mother of BFI’s Founder, Jeanine Niyonzima-Aroian. In the Fall of 2011, I was a volunteer professor of English Communication at Light University. I have made regular, subsequent trips to Burundi since that time. After volunteering five years, I began working part-time for BFI and now have the role of Executive Director. One fine day, I hope to move out of my role as E.D. and become BFI’s Development Director! Maybe this ride on RAGBRAI will bring in sufficient funding for BFI to get me there at warp speed!

2. Why are you participating in RABGRAI this year?

Having grown up in southeast Iowa, I have known many people who enjoyed the RAGBRAI adventure, including my brothers. This year’s particular route was of interest to me. My brother lives in Ames, I will pedal by my high school, middle school, and parent’s home in Hills, IA. The ride finishes in Davenport which holds a fond place in my heart due to spending three years at St. Ambrose University. Having traveled back and forth to Burundi for eight years, I often compare the two countries. Maybe comparing Burundi and Iowa is a bit surprising but both are abundant in agriculture and full of great, friendly people. I thought our team could raise awareness about the needs in Burundi because Iowan’s are kind-hearted and would respond with help if they only knew the needs in Burundi!

3. Who is the athlete that most inspires you in your training for RAGBRAI and why?

Being that my own personal theme song for this ride comes from the Princess and the Frog, ‘Dig a Little Deeper’, the athlete that inspires me most is Serena Williams. Serena has had to dig a little deeper for all kinds of reasons throughout her career. She, and her sister, Venus, are trailblazers, and the U.S. Ambassador to Burundi, Ms. Anne Casper, called BFI “trailblazers” for the work we do in Burundi.

4. If you could tell the world one thing about Burundi, what would it be?

Burundi looks like Hawaii and has the friendliest, most endearing people on our great, big planet. Boom!

5. Which of the Cycle4Burundi Team members do you think will be most prepared for RAGBRAI come July 22nd and who do you think will be least prepared? Why?

The most prepared will be Doug Novak because 1. He actually had a bike before we signed up, 2. He rides on a regular basis, unlike the rest of the team, 3. He just turned a significant age and wants to feel 21 all over again, 4. He’s a business guy and this is what business guy’s do, they pedal far in work and life.

The least prepared will be Fabrice Bizimana because he has no idea what in the heck I just signed him up to do. He agreed because he regularly visits my family in Iowa and thinks everyone is friendly and the homemade ice cream is worth the trip. By the way, he thinks in kilometers, man, how would he know how far we’re going? Maybe Fabrice is thinking, “Is RAGBRAI a new Kirundi word for nap?” Or, “Maybe RAGBRAI is a special Iowan language meaning, vacation?”

Julie Biking


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