We put all our funds into Cambodian projects, and spend nothing on marketing. So it's always a challenge to have enough funding for all the wells, school buildings and teachers that are needed. Which leaves us thinking, "What can we do about this?"
Well, one of our volunteers came up with a solution! Martin Benda rode 2,000 kilometers to support education for the children in rural Cambodia! Read below to discover more...
Our Volunteer Cycled 2000km to Raise Awareness and Funds for Cambodian Students!
From our volunteer Martin Benda:
I hope you all recall the newsletter from November 2014 where I elaborated on my intention to cycle from Singapore to Bangkok, 2000km, to raise awareness and funds to help Future Stars (children) in Cambodia gain access to education and clean water. If you don't, please take a look here, since this newsletter builds on that.
My first connection with Sustainable Cambodia was established in March 2014 when I joined Victor Siow (a former onsite volunteer who is now a member of the board of directors) for a short volunteering trip to Pursat (a province located approximately 250km north of the capital, Phnom Penh, Cambodia). During this trip I visited many rural areas where I witnessed how Sustainable Cambodia helped local families put their children through school, build water catchment systems, and start up economic development.
This visit made a profound impact on me. From that moment onwards I began to ponder how I could join forces with Sustainable Cambodia to raise awareness and funds to help tackle these challenges families in rural Cambodia are facing.
What followed was a couple of brain-storming conversations with friends and the idea emerged - cycling from Singapore to Pursat. Later on I had to change the route slightly, and the 'Singapore to Bangkok' challenge was born. We created a Facebook group "Martin is Cycling 2000km for Future Stars of Cambodia" which has gotten 2,348 "likes" to date. Also, a donation PAGE was created where USD 6,330 has been raised to date. To all who joined this great cause to support Sustainable Cambodia, emotionally or in the form of a donation, a big thank you!
Well, let me take you through the main highlights of my cycling trip:
About The Journey
I had 2000km to cover in high humidity, high temperatures, and very heavy traffic. Essentially, before I set off from Singapore on November 22nd at around 4:30am, I had not made any hotel arrangements nor had I planned the journey in detail. The only objective I had was to reach Bangkok by December 5th to catch my flight back to Singapore. All I had prior to the very moment I set off was the map above. Anything and everything in between of November 22nd and December 5th was left to unfold on its own. Some might have said "pure madness!" I said to myself, "This is just going to be awesome." And it truly was!
Singapore > Malaysia
Literally, my first moment I actually threw a leg over the bike. Untested with 0km on the bike (since the bike was brand new), I pushed the pedals in the basement of my apartment in Singapore, with 2000kms ahead of me. Before I reached the border with Malaysia (around 40km away from my apartment in Singapore), millions of different emotions rushed within me. My brain suddenly started questioning the reliability of the bike, the likelihood of tackling all the challenges successfully, and the probability of actually making it all the way to Bangkok. My heart, on the other hand, exclaimed "Shut up and enjoy the ride." Well, I truly did!
I managed to whiz through Malaysia in just four days and on the 4th day, November 26th, in early morning, I crossed the border with Thailand. Malaysia was more challenging than I anticipated. The terrain was very hilly, starting from north of Kuala Lumpur, with long distances with neither eateries nor small road stalls to buy water. During three out of four days I cycled through what seemed to be short and heavy tropical thunderstorms occurring in a regular cycle every three hours or so. My body got confused a little, after getting wet, then dry, then beginning to sweat again, then drenched in heavy rain again with almost no visibility, and the cycle repeating a couple of times a day. I was determined to cover the daily kms I had planned, and I didn't have the luxury to wait for the thunderstorms to stop. So I just kept pedaling.
Despite challenging conditions, the bright spot was the hospitality of the Malaysian people. Wherever I appeared with my bicycle, people approached curiously asking about the cause. In many cases I was invited to have a meal with them and other passers-by, a truly memorable experience.
I very vividly remember the moment I entered the land of smiles, Thailand. Unfortunately, there was no big smile on my face. My butt was in so much pain after nearly a thousand kms that I could barely sit on the saddle! Just the mere thought of cycling one more km was killing me... Well, I had to get creative. I popped by a local car repair garage, purchased an arm resting cushion which I taped to the saddle. The result wasn't pretty, but I could carry on cycling through the land of smiles with a big smile on my face, too... Perfect!
I was very pleasantly surprised by the fact that all the way from the border with Malaysia I had a shoulder lane to cycle in. I felt safe and nothing could really stop me. The food stalls along the road were ubiquitous, and I started having my regular daily dose of coconuts. I can tell you that there is nothing more refreshing than having a fresh coconut when cycling in the direct afternoon sun in air that is as humid as the sauna. In fact, I drank around 10L of liquid a day!
Day in day out, I was covering around 200kms+ a day which put me ahead of my schedule by a day and a half. I wanted to use this time wisely and was contemplating to either reach Bangkok sooner or to take a break somewhere on the beach. Well, one should not be surprised that I decided to go for the latter! I found an amazingly beautiful stretch of a coast called Hua Hin, approximately 210km away from Bangkok. I spent two days in Hua Hin, indulging myself in some great seafood while recovering my numb butt and legs. Despite almost depleting my budget for the trip (the seafood was to blame), I was ready to hit the last leg of the trip to Bangkok.
The moment I was nearing Bangkok I was constantly looking for a Bangkok sign to take a selfie and post it on Facebook, to let everyone know I made it. Well, there was no sign! However, something was telling me that the heavily urbanised areas were the outskirts of Bangkok, and that was confirmed by my mobile GPS.
Cutting through heavy traffic and millions of scooters all around, an hour or so later I reached my hotel in Bangkok. Extremely excited about my achievement, I wanted to let the world know that I made it! I took a selfie in front of my hotel at Sukhumvit that had a proper Bangkok sign, and the photo went straight up to Facebook! It is extremely difficult to put it in words how I felt when I reached Bangkok. I felt on top of the world, I felt invincible, and I felt that there is nothing I could not accomplish in this world.
What is next?
I am absolutely determined to find more ways to raise even more awareness and more funds to make an impact in the lives of the children - the "Future Stars" - in rural Cambodia. Despite being rather quiet about my next challenge, you can bet it will be a significant step up in terms of difficulty and funds to be raised. This cycling trip was just the beginning! Stay tuned, you will hear more news by end of 2015!
I truly hope that this adventure will raise awareness and be something of an eye-opener, as it was for me! The key takeaway from this trip for me is that we can accomplish truly amazing achievements when we set our mind to a specific goal. It is very important to join forces and channel our determination to where it can make a real impact, an impact from which those less fortunate can benefit.
In our November 2014 newsletter I said that perhaps helping the Future Stars of Cambodia can lead to identifying a lot of otherwise hidden talent. I am aware that the basics have to be fixed first, but I like to shoot for the stars and expect nothing less. Therefore I hope that my cycling trip laid out the foundation to find the future Albert Einstein, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Angelina Jolie and so on among the future stars of Cambodia. Let's find out, step by step!
In conclusion, I would like to express a big thank you to all those who made a donation on this PAGE and to AIMIA, my employer who sponsored me with cycling gear and some additional annual leave.