A World without Poverty

1502497748601-166935451.jpg
Stickers for kids and young at heart

A few days before the start of the Sea to Sea tour my greatest concern was that the ride would be over too fast. Not that nine and a half weeks is a short block of time to be away from home. Somehow the uniqueness of the experience leaves me dreading the end. Reaching Halifax will signal the end.

Circus Life

As one person commented recently, “This is what it must be like to live in a circus.” It’s like leaving my real life behind for a whole summer. The real life with it’s responsibilities of paying bills, looking after the yard, weeding the garden and all the other things that make up day to day living.

Oh, yes, don’t forget to go to work five days a week if one is still in that phase of life.

Instead, I’m living the simple yet luxurious life.

Simple in that I have a basket of clothes that I keep laundered by hand, set up and take down my tent as needed each day, and then focus on getting to the next camp site and do it all over again.

Luxurious in that every day I have breakfast and supper prepared for me. All I need to do is walk up to the table, have my plate filled and find a place to sit down and eat it. In exchange I simply need to do one task for the whole group each day.

Moving Billboard

Each day that I ride, along with a few dozen other cyclists, I have no idea what variations I’ll experience in my day. It’s the chance meetings that turns our riding into a moving billboard. A motorist on the highway or a pedestrian in a small town will have seen several cyclists in identical gear. At some point their curiosity gets the better of them.

When the curiosity overflows the question gets popped. What is going on? Where are you going? Why are you riding?

How I answer the question depends on how the inquiring person strikes me. In a Mac Donalds in Baudette, Michigan some seniors were very intrigued. As I was explaining that we had been riding since June 26 from Vancouver they were impressed. They were complimentary about me as a 64 year old riding all the way to Halifax, Nova Scotia. They dismissed the idea that they were past the age of joining in on such a venture. When I told them our oldest rider is 81 and three quarters their jaws just dropped.

It’s only when a person asks why we are riding will I mention that we are riding to raise money to End the Cycle of Poverty. I will then give them a sticker of a bicycle with a heart. The heart is a great symbol. A heart for an adventure that involves an intimate connection with a bicycle, and an even greater heart to help the poor.

Other times, when I see a parent with a young child or two I’ll stop and tell them I have a sticker for them. As a former teacher I know that kids love stickers. I’ve also learned that adults will get just as excited to receive a sticker.

The end in sight give Hope

Cycling across the continent each day can sometimes be grueling. However, we know that at some point we will reach camp. Just keep pedaling. If things get really tough we know we can get a SAG vehicle to bring us in. A broken down bike, an injury along the way does not spell disaster. We have a way out. And a convenient one at that.

For many living in poverty, there is no end in sight. Each day is a struggle. Each day brings with it the possibility of unknown challenges. And worst of all, an injury, a breakdown of something essential could very easily spell disaster. For many people they are not living with a safety net of a SAG type vehicle that will ‘airlift’ them to a place of help.

Help

As I am hearing some of the presentations by Partners Worldwide I am learning that it is an agency that is working with a model that is very attainable and can easily be replicated. Their tag line is “Business People Faithfully Pursuing a World without Poverty”.

Does it sound like a dream? Only in that all good ideas start out as a dream. They are making the dream a reality in so many different ways.

Because they are business people they are not interested in giving handouts. Handouts create dependency if the support doesn’t go beyond that step. Also, their model would also not be described as a hand up. They are committed to ending the cycle that is holding so many people down.

As business people they work with a viable business model. As such that means providing families with the resources needed to give them hope by helping them leave behind a spirit of defeat, a spirit of poverty. This means providing individuals with micro-loans, advocacy, education, skill development and mentors or any combination of these supports.

At times the support is providing a loan and teaching the skills needed to raise a crop that has a viable market. Other times it involves securing proper land ownership so the family have a place to farm needed crops. Other times it’s setting a family up with equipment and a market for small scale home manufacturing.

The possibilities are only limited by one’s imagination. Each project is designed to ensure a high success rate. Each successful venture becomes the model for other members in the community to imitate and work their way out of poverty.

The beauty of the work done by Partner’s Worldwide is that it costs on average $150 per person to help a family out of poverty. That means financial poverty. That means poverty of spirit. With each success another family is making a positive contribution to their community. The outcome is a spirit of generosity as they in turn are motivated to help others.

Dreading the End

This ‘circus of a ride’ while it seems like an unreal world to be living in will come to an end for me on August 29. However, this ‘circus of a ride’ has been a further eye opener for me that working to eradicate poverty is not a hopeless venture. It is attainable.

In that way, this experience does not end for me on August 29. I pray that in some way the 56 days of cycling is only a prelude to further understanding and working on ways to end the cycle of poverty, both in Canada and in developing parts of the world.

Poverty, at heart is an issue of justice. It comes down to resource distribution. When families are deprived of access to resources because of corporate greed or war. It beats people down to a point where they are at risk of losing all hope.

We have the eyes to see. We have the means to bring change. We need the will make that happen.

In other words, there should be no end to my ride experience. Rather a precursor to instill in me a greater spirit of generosity.

 

When the Real Thing Happens

 

20170701_123951
Ally a knowledgeable and very supportive riding buddy

Not even three days into the tour and one thing has become very clear; despite all the training and the thorough preparations that’s no guarantee that the real thing will go well. Even the four day pre-ride didn’t bring out the challenges that the start of the Sea to Sea ride dropped on me.

I say, dropped because it was wholly unexpected. Day one of the ride caused me some difficulty because of the waiting around, getting the first day of the ride to start in an organized way, and doing the ceremonial tire dip in the Pacific Ocean. The ride portion of the day went very well, so I looked forward to reasonably uneventful days after putting the first day behind me.

Day two was an easy ride with 90 km and minimal climbing. We had a refreshment stop at one church with lots of fresh baked cookies, drinks and lively conversations. The lunch stop later in the morning was at a Christian school where we were served a choice of 5 different soups, buns with an assortment of meats and cheese and watermelon.

I rode with two cyclists to minimize the sensory loading from being around too many people. We had the wind on our backs with most of the route following quiet secondary roads which ran more or less parallel to the Trans Canada Highway. Arriving in camp, it was my Service Team’s job to set up the supper tables, erect the canopies and unload the cooking equipment from the kitchen truck.

With the cycling done for the day, and my service team duties done by 2 pm I knew it was time to relax and hopefully get in a short nap. After lying down for an hour and napping for a half hour I figured I was good to go for the balance of the day.

It was when I got up from my nap that I realized I was dealing with a significant bout of sensory overload. The timing of it took me totally by surprise. During the day I did not notice any of the possible signals that my body usually gives me. Nevertheless, when I got up from my nap I was dealing with some very strong side effects, making it difficult to get my tent set up, showering and laundering my cycling clothes with any efficiency. Supper went okay because I found a quiet place to eat after going through the buffet lineup.

Usually a night’s sleep will dissipate enough of my sensory loading to function in an okay manner the next day. When I woke up the next morning I soon realized I was still very close to my limit of sensory loading. Taking down and packing the tent, rolling up the sleeping mat and sleeping bag took a long time because I couldn’t focus enough to get things organized. Between having things stored in the tent, in the gear truck and using the washroom facilities I ended up misplacing too many things. I then tried to retrace my steps to find my missing stuff. I managed to find everything back eventually except for my only official pair of biking shorts. (No worry, I do have a couple back up pairs.) By the time I had my camping gear in the gear truck I had missed out on most of what was available for breakfast. The challenges of packing up and getting myself ready to ride for the day put me into a downward spiral.

When I was finally ready to roll my two cycling buddies from the previous day were patiently waiting for me. That simple gesture by itself was a real morale boost. It felt good to be cycling, which gradually helped dissipate the sensory loading – no schedule to meet, no planning, no organizing demands, just pedal my bike. And so with one soothing pedal stroke after another I began the 70 km ride from Hope BC to Manning Provincial Park a 1300 meter climb.

The rhythm of the cycling helped me ease into the rest of the day. Gradually my symptoms began to subside a bit. We were climbing in the early morning so the shade cast by the mountains kept us relatively cool. As the day progressed the temperature increased. By early afternoon I was once more at my limit as the sensory loading again reached a point where cycling became difficult. A couple of short breaks and a some encouragement from a couple of people was enough to help me complete the last 10 km for the day.

The two and a half day experience did not bode well for the 65 days of cycling that lay ahead. What troubled me is that a four day ride a month ago went much better than the first 3 days.

My godsend was a fellow cyclist Ally who is a brain injury specialist and had been my cycling buddy since the start of the ride. She had observed my struggle and had given me some general pointers in the first couple days. When we got to camp she gave me a dose glucosamine and recommended taking a dose everyday within 45 minutes of completing the ride. In addition to that she recommended taking magnesium to help relax and rejuvenate the muscles. The combination of these two vitamin supplements allows me to sleep better and help my body recover from the demands of the day. This was in addition to the variety of vitamin supplements I had been prescribed by a nutritionist before starting the ride.

Each cyclist is part of one of eleven Service Teams, organized to get vital tasks done in camp each day. My Service Team has been very encouraging and accommodating of my limitations. The tasks assigned to us will change from week to week, so my ability to contribute my share will vary from week to week.

Each rider is part of this tour because of a common purpose – to raise money for helping people get out of poverty and at the same time to spread the news about the work that Partners World Wide and World Renew are doing to meet that goal. What is heartwarming to see is that the desire to help others is being practiced among members of the tour. With such a generous outpouring of empathy and support my ability to complete this tour looks much stronger.