Cycling for Syria
13 March, 2016
Between 7-9 March, 41 cyclists participated in the Queenstown Classic in New Zealand, a cycling fundraising event organised by 25000spins to raise money for charity. Of these, 26 fundraised for ADRA to help Syrian refugee children attend school in Beirut, Lebanon where they have escaped the Syrian war with their families. Glenn Townend, president of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church in the South Pacific Division, wrote a daily blog of his experiences riding to support ADRA. ~ ~ ~ Day 1 ‘Oh no,’ I think as I open a window before I go to sleep in Queenstown. It’s raining and steadily. I am here to raise funds in a charity ride with 25000spins and raise funds for ADRA. Rain and bike riding are not compatible in my mind. Riding is dangerous enough; wet roads, wet and cold bodies are not fun. Among other things, I pray for fine weather and I do wonder if the children I am raising funds for in Beirut think of the weather – the snow or sunshine or rain. Having just escaped from war-torn Syria, perhaps they are thinking of just surviving and having a safe place to live. Later, I sit in a cabin in Cromwell after riding 119 km and climbing 1609 vertical metres. It was sunny all the time – even reaching 32 degrees. A glorious day of riding with some friends and family that I know well and also meeting some quality people riding for a good cause. The scenery is amazing when you get to see it. Most often I am watching the tyre in front of me so I don’t run into the bike in front, because if I do, kissing the bitumen at 40 km/h is not nice (I’ve done it before and it hurts). However when I was climbing Coronet Peak there were few bikes around me and the huge mountains were right there in front of me – part of the challenge but the bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds blowing by over the peaks and past the green treed and grassed valleys opened my eyes to a great wide world. I thanked God the Creator for this magnificent place. I also wonder what those I ride for see – mountains with high rise apartments over crowded with refugees. I am riding for them to see better things than me. Day 2 The alarm woke me at 6.30 am. I was not happy. I don’t like morning alarms – I’m usually awake before they go off and the usual time is much earlier than 6.30. Sleep comes easy when your body is tired. My body is tired and it wanted more sleep! But alas day two of the Queenstown Classic had dawned. Feez, an endurance athlete is riding for another charity and he speaks at the morning briefing. He rides because he was appalled by being approached in Nepal by multiple men offering girls of any age. This charity frees girls and women from sex slavery. He is motivated to stop this. I am motivated to give all children a fair go and ADRA is doing that too. The scenery is amazing – God blessed New Zealand with plenty of it but I do not like the head wind with hills – it makes riding very difficult. But that’s nothing compared to the challenges the people who ADRA help have. So I don’t complain (much). It was very satisfying to be one of only six riders to do the whole 127 km from Cromwell to Lake Hawea and then to Wanaka. If my brother-in-law was writing this he would add that I was the oldest of those riders. Day 3 “Ah, ah”, I heard my roommate groan, in the shower next door. He was showering after the third and final day of riding the Queenstown Classic for ADRA. I understood and am certain everyone else did too – there were muscles aching like they had not ached in years. On the final day the ride goes from Wanaka to Queenstown up the Crown Range – a steady and then steep pass up and over into Queenstown. The last 2 kms is a 15% climb which is not easy for even an experienced rider. I was inspired by those who were not on expensive bikes and not continual riders – with grimaces and then smiles they each reach the summit. The hardest part of the ride is over and they made it! One held a picture of a girl in poverty – she was riding for this girls freedom from poverty and the ride was worth it! That evening at a farewell dinner the aid agencies thank everyone for riding. I am impressed with ADRA for a couple of reasons. They knew the projects that the riders were raising funds for, each rider for ADRA got a free ‘Changing the World with ADRA’ t-shirt and everyone received an ADRA New Zealand water bottle. My roommate had lost one of his water bottles down a bumpy section of a descent and did not have the energy to turn around and ride back and search for it in the long grass. Now he had a new one! Bonus. There were lots of speeches and good conversation. Each recognising the fun of the ride and the reason we did it. Exhausted and satisfied. It was so good I’d do it again and recommend it to others. ~ ~ ~ Photos: 25000spins Learn more about ADRA’s project helping Syrian refugee children in Lebanon to attend school and donate now.