December 23rd, 2022Riding for Cambodia
Words: Eve Lamb | Image: Kyle Barnes
PREPARING to cycle 650 kilometres through the heat of a Cambodian January may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
But three intrepid Trentham residents are relishing the chance to do just that to help raise funds for a particularly good cause.
Right now, Mia Gartley, Steven Peirce and Paul Williamson are preparing – and training up – to join 22 others from around the world to cover the distance over eight days in January.
They’ll be raising money for REACH Siem Reap, a not-for-profit which helps Cambodian families struggling to survive in serious poverty.
The last such similar fundraising cycle event – run by another charity organisation – happened pre-Covid, back in 2019 and both Paul and Steven were part of it, but for Mia it’s going to be a whole new experience.
And Mia does not even describe herself as a cyclist.
“No. This is my first go at long distance cycling,” the office administrator said.
“I decided to do it because of the cause. It’s just such a good cause and I know exactly where the money is going – directly to the people who need it. It goes to cover things like education and food.”
Mia says getting some respectable training kilometres under her tyre tread has seen her out tackling a lot of trails and unmade roads around East Trentham over the past month.
She says the challenge motivated her to dust off her old bicycle – “that I’d kept since my 20s”.
“The biggest challenge has been the cold days – down to two degrees here in Trentham East, and when it’s been really cold I’ve done my cycling on an indoors bike instead.
“When we’re in Cambodia we’ll be tackling everything from unmade roads to busy main roads and keeping a look out for everything from tuk tuks to bullocks and buses.”
Ahead of the ride, Trentham’s Williamson family is hosting a special private fundraising afternoon, but anyone else who wants to help the three participating Trentham riders reach their fundraising goals can do so online.
“I’ve done about seven of these rides and I’m not even a bike rider,” says Paul Williamson, whose daughter Emily Williamson founded REACH Siem Reap and opened a school in the northwestern Cambodian location.
“I put myself through the pain for the end result,” Paul says.
“We will start at the southern end of Cambodia and go right up through Phnom Penh, to end at Siem Reap and be clapped in by the students at the school.
“I’m expecting it will be bloody hot and we will be riding through a lot of jungle and crossing the Mekong (River) two or three times.”
For those who would like to help them reach their fundraising aims, Mia said that each of the Trentham Riders had their own REACH fundraising page – “and we have to raise $5000 each,” she says.
“I’m pretty close. I’ve got about $4000 already.”
REACH Siem Reap communications officer Tadiwa Sibanda said the participation of the Trentham Riders in the upcoming Ride to REACH fundraising cycle was extremely valuable.
“We actually will be running two charity cycling events in January 2023 – our international event, Ride to REACH, where our international supporters join in Cambodia and cycle the length of the country, 650kms in eight days,” she said.
“And our second event is Side by Side – our local, youth-led event. To empower our students, and give them a life-changing experience, they will cycle 200kms in two days.
“Our two January bike rides are raising funds to support more than 200 Cambodian kids and their families in their fight against poverty.
“Our programs are dedicated to helping local families and youths combat the cycle of generational poverty and are focused around the basic needs of education, nutrition and health.
“As a non-government organisation all of our funding is reliant on generous individuals who donate to our cause. Our bike rides are our biggest campaigns, and to a large extent the most exciting.”