HEAL cyclists, still buzzing from a memorable and emotional Cycle India 2012 are already making plans for 2014!
Many described the 10-day adventure in India as “life-changing” and are determined to repeat the experience in two years’ time.
HEAL founder Dr Koneru Prasad announced during the trip that a new coastal cycling route, from Mumbai to Goa, was being considered for the fourth Cycle India event.
After five days pedalling through the beautiful hills and backwaters of Kerala, the intrepid team of 23 cyclists from the UK, India and USA developed a strong bond and cameraderie, which has been reflected by a buzz on social network websites ever since.
Cycle India 2012, which is expected to raise more than £40k when all UK fund-raising is complete, was closely monitored in the Indian media along the way.
Since returning home, many of the cyclists have had more news of their exploits published on blogs and in the press, while much of the chat between the new-found friends on sites such as Facebook and Twitter has been all about the countdown to 2014.
“I am definitely keen to be part of Cycle India 2014,” says 38-year-old nurse, wife and mother-of-two Zoe Smith.
“What an amazing trip that was, honestly unlike any other trip I have ever had. The camaraderie was incredible, the people inspirational and the feeling of euphoria impossible to describe.
“My emotion after the big hill-climb on day three was incredible and made all the better by being able to share it with such wonderful people. It was amazing to step out of the ordinary to do something extraordinary.
“Looking back, I did nowhere near enough training but the team spirit, the feeling of doing something worthwhile and the inspiration of HEAL pulled me through.
“I now plan to sponsor a child in India and hope to see that child grow and flourish under the nurturing umbrella of HEAL. I’m already looking forward to visiting the Children’s Village in Guntur again.”
Grace Shephard, a 53-year-old PA, along with husband Adrian raised money for HEAL by holding Indian dinners at their home in Warminster, Wiltshire.
“Not until the cycle ride was over and we arrived in Andhra Pradesh did I feel the full impact of our challenge,” admitted Grace.
“We visited the site of Paradise Village, seeing the plans for the whole complex and witnessing the early stages of the school building rising from the ground with the unrelenting work from happy local workers.
“We also went to the Heal Village in Guntur where we were greeted by hundreds of beautiful children full of life and ambition, and made a brief visit to the slums where many of the HEAL children would still be breaking stone in the quarry if not for the charity.
“This experience was truly life-changing, full of every emotion. It made every push on the pedals and fund-raising event worth the time and effort a million times over. Bring on 2014 to see those children again!”
Husband Ady, a 54-year-old events manager, agreed, adding: “We were looking for a special holiday to mark our 20th wedding anniversary and we certainly found it!
“For me personally, the ride was transformative on many levels. It was a great team-building experience, with cameraderie and mutual affection between us from the word go. We Brits aren’t always as stuffy and cold as our reputation!
“What a wonderful adventure and what a feast for the senses – warmth, colours, countryside, vibrancy and great food!
“It was my first time in India. Receiving the garlanded welcomes from the children was humbling and it all came as a big jolt to my moral compass. I’ll just say that I’m not quite the same as I used to be since the ride.”
Ann Cripps, who prepared for Cycle India by biking in the Yorkshire Dales near her home, is another planning another fund-raising trip in two years’ time.
“What will remain with me a long time is the visit to the HEAL Village – turning the corner and seeing all the children waiting to greet us was overwhelming and then being shown around so spontaneously by different children and realising the warmth and closeness of their life together.
“It was a magical couple of days that I feel privileged to have shared. Needless to say I plan to return in 2014 and my sister is keen to come as well!”