Two young Vietnamese women are joining a crew of 15 non-professionals on a 2,000-kilometer biking tour to raise funds for disadvantaged children in Vietnam.
The team of volunteers from different countries set out on March 30 from Hanoi and is expected to reach Ho Chi Minh City on April 26, aiming to raise least US$50,000 for Vietnamese children living in poverty.
The fundraising effort is held to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the H2H Charity Ride, an event held annually since 2009 by Saigon Children’s Charity CIO (SaigonChildren), a non-government organization helping children in crises improve their situations and have access to education like their peers.
Within the past nine years, H2H Charity Ride has raised over $338,000 to support education and health care for Vietnam’s underprivileged children.
New to the activity
Both of the two Vietnamese participants, Nguyen Vo Vuong Loc and Nguyen Bich Thao, are new to cycling tours.
Thao, 27, originating from the southern province of Kien Giang but currently works for an Australian company in Ho Chi Minh City, believes that she is luckier than anyone else so she always does her best to help the less fortunate.
“When Saigonchildren posted an announcement about H2H Charity Ride, I signed up right away and was eventually chosen,” the 27-year-old said, adding that she had so far been able to raise $1,000 for the fund.
In the meantime, Loc, hailing from the coastal city of Vung Tau near Ho Chi Minh City, also joined the cycling tour with less than a few weeks of preparation.
On the first day of the journey, she was able to raise more than $1,000 to support H2H fund.
“When I participated, many friends, acquaintances, and even strangers donated money to me so that I can support the fund,” she recalled, saying she was touched by the generosity she received.
The Vung Tau resident added that if her father was not busy at the last minutes, he would have joined the charity ride as well.
“I have always wished to do something to help children in crises and this is a great opportunity for me to do so,” Loc said.
|H2H Charity Ride participants pose for a group photo in Hanoi, March 30, 2019. Photo: Khuong Xuan / Tuoi Tre|
Giving back to a country they love
All of the H2H Charity Ride participants have to fund their own 28-day journey from northern to southern Vietnam, covering expenses for outfits, bikes, and meals.
In addition, each participant needs to pay VND6 million (US$260) for a car follows the crew the whole journey to carry their belongings and necessities.
Many foreign participants also had to cover their own flight tickets to travel to Vietnam as they live abroad.
American participant Andrea Towne is doing her third H2H Charity Ride in ten years with a bamboo bike to protect the environment.
“I love this country,” Towne, who teaches at the British Council English Center in Ho Chi Minh City, said of her motivation to join the charity ride.
“Vietnam is my second home so I want to do something to repay what this country has given me.”
Another American participant, Justene Wilke, said participating in the H2H Charity Ride is an amazing adventure and experience.
“I am really excited to see different regions of Vietnam that many tourists do not have the opportunity to visit,” she beamed, adding that she wants to give back something positive to a country that had been her home for over a year.
Wilke first came to Vietnam in 2008 as a tourist and stayed as an English teacher for over a year before going back to America, where she is now a nurse.
In 2009, the U.S. woman also pedaled through Vietnam for the first time as she joined the inaugural H2H Charity Ride was held.
She has come back to Vietnam twice to volunteer for a medical center in the central province of Quang Binh over the last ten years and now is Vietnam again for the tenth H2H ride.