Bike Ride for Charity – Completing the 500 km Ride
We completed the bike ride for charity with a bang! The last day was ONLY 73km before we got to the Home Hug orphanage. It felt like a mere walk in the park on a sunny day compared to the other long, gruelling rides in sweltering blistering heat, pouring rain, or cold and spine chilling weather. It is all so relative!
I took off the pace today and cruised along with some of the other riders individually, chatting, connecting, and sharing stories and insights regarding this bike ride for charity. Many times I rode alone on a long stretch of road in tears…not tears of sadness but one of joy, and the happiness of impactful contribution. Learning about the plight and circumstances of these, some of the kids who have contracted HIV/AIDs and other diseases through no fault of their own and how much their lives have changed with our assistance has been an overwhelming, emotional experience. We saw pictures of the new Home in Surin that our bike ride for charity fundraising has built – a bold, clean, bright and beautiful building compared to the tents where the kids are sleeping in now. It is not yet finished but will be soon.
It was one of the best days riding…partly, because we were on the home stretch now with the end in sight; partly, because I have felt I have moved from being a novice rider to a “trained” rider. I have learnt from this bike ride for charity all the tricks of the trade, secret code words and signs such as “car up”, “hole”, “bike back”, “on your right”, “drafting” etc. We had lovely brief stops along the way enjoying a few moments with the country thai locals, navigating our way through a herd of cows, sampling sticky rice with hot spicy fish and anchovy paste, cuddling the cute little thai kids, observing the backyard animals such as chickens, pigs, dogs etc.
I truly loved today…a really special life changing experience. We all gathered together about 1km from the orphanage to celebrate the end of our 500km Bike Ride for Charity as the Blueprint charity riding team. We shared our deep insights and experiences and then, rode in together as a group to meet the orphanage kids and their caregivers in Yasothon, one of the poorest areas in the country.
The Home Hug Orphanage – Beneficiary of the 500 km Bike Ride for Charity
Home Hug orphanage is definitely one of the most soul enriching place on earth. It was initially started by a strong and dedicated lady named Suthasinee Noi-in, better known by her nickname Mae Tiew (Mother Tiew to all the kids). This 54-year old dark skinned, strong lady, who seems to glow with infinite love and kindness even without make-up, has dedicated herself to maintaining and supporting these kids. She give them the love and care that no one else would, the coaching and guidance…the only mother they know. This is in spite of the fact that she is suffering currently from intestinal cancer. If it was not for her, hundreds of children would not have been alive today.
To continuously provide the essential medicines and food, Mae Tiew has long sold all of her possessions and small land inheritance that her parents had left for her. There are only a handful of staff and occasional volunteers on the weekends to look after these 90 plus kids. HIV and AIDs is the second biggest cause of death in Thailand. And when one or more of the affected parents die, the kids (sometimes also infected) are left destitute, alone and homeless. Fortunately, some of these kids found shelter through the Home Hug Orphanage.
At present, Home Hug accommodates over 90 children from all ages. Since Hands Across the Water charity have stepped in to assist in 2010, there have been no further deaths of kids at this shelter, and the sicker kids are now starting to thrive and receive some of the much needed medications to stay well. Some kids have sustained mental and physical trauma, some have intellectual impairment, but most are starting to emerge out of their shell and pain with the love, safety and care they are now receiving. Prior to Hands Across the Water assisting, Home Hug heartbreakingly buried 2-3 children a week, many graves forced to be dug by the older children’s own hands. Lessons in death are taught to the kids as they realized that there will be times when they wake up the next day, they may not see their friends again.
Bike Ride for Charity Culmination with the Thai Kids-Beneficiaries
We were welcomed with a horde of bubbling, smiling kids who had spent weeks preparing to greet us, their “surrogate” parents who have supported them to give them a new start in life. Beautiful decorations, flowers and bright coloured ornaments, painstakingly prepared and presented in front of the building, greeted us along with a fanfare of music, laughter and celebration from the kids. We were presented with cold coconut drinks and a moist towel to wipe off the sweat and grime. It was so sweet and sooo refreshing after the ride.
Each of us were assigned a thai child that we chose from a tree studded with name tags. There were children from as young as 3 months to late teens. It was an emotional, tearful and joyous experience. We were fed with a beautiful home cooked meal. Our shoulders were massaged by tiny hands. And, were entertained with specially prepared thai dancing, music and singing by the kids. The little ones were sooo CUTE! Some were definitely incredibly talented with their dancing, rap moves and boundless enthusiasm. Holding our hands, the children took us around and proudly showed off their home, where they slept, ate, grew vegetables and kept animals to partly sustain themselves. Meat is expensive here; so, the children are encouraged to search for edible fruits, insects and plants. Most meals consist of rice and a few condiments. All kids say grace before they eat. When there is not enough food, then the meals are rice with some tamarind paste.
Amenities we take for granted such as hot showers, seated toilets, comfortable beds and rooms are non existent. I felt the emotional impact of the stark contrast as I later stood under a hot shower viewing the surroundings of my comfortable, well appointed hotel room near the orphanage. I found myself with many moments in tears and waves of suppressed emotions just bubbling under the surface. We received a beautiful gift pack of handmade presents, from crocheted key rings, hand embroidered T-shirts and slippers, drawings and handmade ornaments made out of plastic bottles and tops.
Our final dinner together was a wonderful emotionally charged celebration of our epic bike ride for charity, our sense of achievement with inspiring pictures, music and dancing through the night shared with all the people and kids from the orphanage. We partied on into the night with our male riders giving these boys some much needed and rarely accessed male role model and bonding. I don’t know how we managed to dance our way into the night after a massive day riding and emotionally charged afternoon. But, I think feeling totally inspired and basking in the happy smiling faces of the kids gave us that last burst of energy and made it all sooo worthwhile.
It is the end of my journey here…but really only the beginning of a new chapter. I have a new purpose and new perspectives on what really matters most. The metaphors, lessons and insight I have gained I will share very soon. These are the precious gifts and blessings the kids and the bike ride for charity left with me. Most of all the hearts that we touched and the lives we changed has made me so very grateful for everything I have previously taken for granted, inspired me to do more and has changed me forever.
Kop Khun Ka! Thank you for reading the updates… for posting comments and words of encouragement on Facebook, and for joining my journey in this Bike Ride for Charity in Thailand!
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