Earlier this year, 23-year-old Kasia Szewczyk was selected as the recipient of the 2012 Bicycle Touring Pro Travel Scholarship and was given $500 USD to help her make her bicycle tour, from Spain to Turkey, a reality. Not only is Kasia planning to ride by herself from Spain to Turkey (an impressive feat in and of itself), but she is also hoping to use her bicycle tour as a chance to raise more than $10,000 CAD for the non-profit organization, World Literacy Canada, who will then use the money she raises to teach people in India how to read and write.
I have asked Kasia to share some information about her upcoming bicycle tour and her attempts at raising money for the WLC. This is what she had to say:
It’s been a very busy time so far in Barcelona. I haven’t done anything “touristy,” aside from taking the tourist bus the first day from the airport to the city core – Plaza Catalunya. I have, however, a fairly good knowledge of the book, bike, sport and camping stores in the city not to mention a spare amount of time spent in the metro commuting to various homes and meeting places to buy second-hand gear from the locals. It’s alarming how fast I am learning, and liking, this European metropolis.
Aside from recovering from jet lag during the first few days, I’ve been running on spare hours of sleep caught on the fly as I grab a felafel wrap on my way back “home” (my friend’s apartment where I am currently living) to take advantage of constant and high-speed WIFI… to continuously promote the Ride to Read event. If I have a spare hour or two I visit the local gym, where a friendly employee is letting me exercise for free, to exhaust myself silly – in hopes that it will make me stronger for the ride.
If time were expressed in how it is felt – this period in Barcelona would be classified as a month. As it stands, however; it has officially been one week.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m really enjoying this whirlwind of events. Being so fully dedicated to one project is refreshing and, potentially, very rewarding. However, as I, and my trusted project assistant Stefani, work away hard on promoting the Ride to Read, sending never-ending emails and making constant telephone calls to various companies and organizations, seeking sponsorship and support, creating leaflets and posters… I have my moments of doubt.
I guess it’s normal to feel this when you’ve invested so much energy, time, emotion and money in a single project. There are moments when I feel deep down that all of my efforts will be rewarded and that this ride will be not only a cycling but a fund-raising success as well. I see images of myself receiving the long-awaited email – “we have reached our goal!” the screen screams at me in huge numbers – and I fist-pump the air for the success that this means for everyone, for all that we are working for. Suddenly, there is no soreness in my thighs, or back or neck – I could bike for hours, days and weeks without stopping! Nothing in the world can take the smile off my face. I envision the team at World Literacy Canada in Toronto high-fiving each other and cheering.
Then there are moments when I doubt my physical capability and I doubt our supporters capacity to come through for us to raise the hoped-for amount: $10,000 CAD. It’s both a daunting and symbolic amount. For a millionaire – our hoped for sum is nearly as trivial as the cost of a Starbucks coffee. On the other hand, the five figures for anyone scraping by an existence is a mean sum of money. Be it what it may, it is our Ride to Read goal, and we won’t back down from it.
But what if we are all, simply put, absorbed in our own lives and don’t care at all for others and their welfare? What if the ugly truth is that you can’t count on anyone except yourself? At this point, are you sighing with resolve or shaking your head, like me, because you can’t bear to accept that point of view?
The question that Bicycle Touring Pro would like answered before I leave on my trans-European bicycle fund-raising trip is the following: What do I hope to achieve with my ride?
I feel that this is a three-fold answer.
Firstly, for myself, I hope to arrive safe and sound, and in excellent biking condition, to Istanbul, Turkey. I hope to learn as much on the road as I am learning now in preparing for it, to make meaningful connections with those that I meet and to stay connected to everyone following the Ride virtually, whether through the blog, Facebook and/or Twitter. I want them to enjoy the ride, and all of its adventures and beauty, with me.
Secondly, for the Ride to Read team, I hope to achieve our goal of $10,000 CAD and to have that substantial sum go towards the literacy and education programs run by World Literacy Canada in India. I hope that this funding will give WLC its needed boost after having recently received major cuts, this year their CIDA funding from the Canadian government was not renewed. I want this ride to be a fund-raising success for everyone involved, and for supporters to appreciate the goodness and helpfulness of their donations and for those recipients of the India programs, in the majority women and children living in poverty, to enjoy the gift of literacy and education.
Thirdly, I hope for an inspiring, international success story – may this Ride to Read be a platform for us all to connect and come together for a common cause, regardless of our nationalities, beliefs or walks of life. May it be a confirmation of people coming together to help people; proving to each other that it can be done.
That, dear supporters, is what I hope to achieve with – and for – the Ride to Read.
To learn more about Kasia’s Ride To Read bicycle tour (and to make a donation to her cause), please see the website at: http://ridetoread.wordpress.com