AN adventure-loving family from Australia admitted they simply couldn’t resist the challenge when they became the latest recruits for UK-based charity HEAL’s major international fundraiser, Cycle India 2014.
HEAL (Health and Education for All) has raised £220,000 from three previous Cycle India events in 2008, 2010 and 2012 and already has cyclists from India, Great Britain, Germany, United States and Australia signed up for 2014.
All monies raised go to help HEAL’s projects in rural Andhra Pradesh, southern India, where the charity offers many hundreds of impoverished, abandoned and orphaned children education and health care, as well as a roof over their heads. The charity, set up by UK medical practitioner Dr Satya Prasad Koneru 20 years ago, will shortly open the doors to its most ambitious project yet, HEAL Paradise Village, which will become home to one thousand needy children over the coming years.
Participants in Cycle India 2014 will stay at Paradise Village, near Vijayawada, and meet with the first intake of children, as well as visiting existing projects such as HEAL Children’s Village at Guntur.
When Australian Ben Pratt, 27, was looking for a new challenge after taking part in a 200km charity cycle ride in Perth, he came across Cycle India and quickly signed up, along with friend and work colleague Prateek Dua.
Excited by the prospect of a 400km bike ride along a stunning coastal route from Mumbai to the popular tourist destination of Goa in west India, Ben soon shared the details with mum and dad Stuart and Shirley … and they were hooked!
“What can I say,” says Shirley, “we’re Aussies, and we love challenges. Stu and myself are both in our 50s and live in a little country town in New South Wales called Quirindi. We moved here about 18 months ago, as we now have a beautiful granddaughter to care for.
“Ben, however, lives in a remote area of the Kimberleys in western Australia, about 5,000km from us, so we are unable to catch up with each other all that often.
“We went to visit Ben in February and one afternoon we started to talk travel. He told us all about Cycle India and we just thought we could combine everything – travel, give to a charity, meet wonderful people, and have some family time as well … there were only positives as far as we were concerned. So for us from that point on it was ‘let the challenge begin!’.
“Stu and I have always loved travelling and have already done a few challenges along the way – trekking Fox Glacier in New Zealand, jumping out of a plane, trekking with the gorillas in Rwanda – all these exciting adventures were done with our daughter and son-in-law, so it’s going to be wonderful to be doing something with Ben.
“He competed in a bike ride last year to raise money for a cancer charity. At the time, he was living in Ayers Rock in central Australia, so training in 45-degree heat was very challenging, to say the least. It was extremely testing at times but when you have the reward at the end it, it is all worthwhile.
“The bike ride of over 200km in two days was held in Perth and it was a huge success. He enjoyed the challenge so much, he started looking further afield for another one to do, this time overseas, and that’s how Cycle India became his next challenge. His friend Prateek worked with Ben at the time and, coming from India, he also became very keen to do the bike ride.
“Ben loves riding, as does Stu, although he hasn’t ridden for many years. I never had a bike as a child, so I will definitely have my ‘learner plates’ on, but I’m ready to give it a go for the kids, or maybe walk some stages and help out at feeding stations along the way.”
HEAL founder and president Dr Prasad said: “I was very excited to learn that we will be welcoming a group of cyclists from Australia to Cycle India 2014 as this comes at a time when we are close to finalising the creation of a new arm of our charity, HEAL Australia.
“This event will be a chance to bring together not only supporters from HEAL USA, HEAL India and HEAL UK, but now HEAL Australia and other countries too.
“It promises to be a truly multi-national event and those who will benefit are the children in India, who will be given a chance of a brighter future by receiving an education which will allow them to stand on their own two feet.”
Cycle India 2014 volunteer organiser Jem King is already in talks with another group of potential cyclists from Hong Kong and is delighted to see the fundraising event attracting so much global interest this year.
“We are thrilled to have our friends from Down Under on board for 2014 and I’m hoping other like-minded Aussie cyclists might consider signing up as well,” said Welsh journalist Jem. “We’re aiming to assemble a group of around 30 cyclists for the ride from Mumbai to Goa. After all, the more participants, the more money HEAL can raise to get kids off the streets, out of the rubbish dumps and slums and into school where they belong.”
To learn more about Cycle India 2014, next year’s itinerary and how to register, go to www.heal.co.uk/about-cycle-india.html or get in touch via our contact page at www.heal.co.uk/contact-us.html