Do you want to help break the poverty cycle for children living in India, Tanzania and Cambodia? Not-for-profit Christian organisation Pedal Against Poverty hopes to do just that.
What is Pedal Against Poverty – and how was the organisation established?
Pedal Against Poverty exists to help desperately poor kids around the world. No child should live in the poverty, but so many do. We exist to give these kids hope and a future.
My Senior Pastor at Parkside Church went to Cambodia at the beginning of 2008 and literally spent time on this rubbish dump, which is called Smokey Mountain, or the Stung Meanchey dump. The methane from the rotting rubbish catches alight, producing areas of smoke. The dump is filthy – with needles, dangerous arsenic levels, and there are trucks running back and forth which can even run over the children who live on or near the dump.
He took pictures of this dump and brought them back to show me. I had worked with people living in desperate poverty before – I actually lived on a ship involved with humanitarian work. A mate of mine asked me if I wanted to do some sort of ride to raise money, and I thought, “Sure – we can do that!”
It started with the idea that we might raise $1,000, but by the end of that year, we were not only a charitable organisation, we’d held a fundraising dinner, where Nicole Kidman held a reception and we auctioned off items like Roger Federer tennis balls.
We did our first 24-hour ride in a relay format in late 2008, with Cycling NSW and a variety of sponsors coming on board, and the thousands of dollars we raised were used to take these kids off the dump and place them into the Jehovah Jireh Centre.
The centre takes the kids in, clean them, give them clothing, feed and educate them. There’s also a clinic operating in the same building, called the Value Life Anti-Natal Clinic. This provides care for pregnant women, help with birthing and even assistance for abused women. They are simply incredible!
What’s your role within the organisation, Matt?
I’m the CEO. (Laughs). I’m not too worried about my title, but I am concerned about the kids! I founded the organisation with my friend Nick Alexander.
Where do the funds raised by Pedal Against Poverty go these days?
Now, in 2011, we support 3 things. There’s the Jehovah Jireh Centre, then we support young girls in India known as the Jogini girls.
It is estimated there are 17,000 of these girls who have been sold into sexual slavery, and we support a service called the House of Promise that takes them out of this situation and provides mental health care, support and education. We also support a centre being built at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, which is wonderful and will help to support many poor children. Compassion International will run this centre.
What are the cycle events scheduled to take place this month?
There are two events, held on the same weekend. The Sydney ride is a 24-hour event, which will be held next to the Dunc Grey Olympic Velodrome at the Criterion Circuit, Carysfield Road, Bass Hill. Riders will ride from 11am Saturday 15 October to 11am Sunday 16 October in a relay format.
There is also the 8-hour mountain bike event, which will be held at Wayne Richards Park in Port Macquarie from 9am – 5pm on Saturday, October 15.
Jason English, the 24-hour mountain bike world champion will be riding with us at Port Macquarie; he’s our Pedal Ambassador, a committed Christian and an amazing guy.
Belinda Porter, a 24-hour world mountain bike champion in her age category (30 – 35 years) will also ride, along with a variety of other people from clubs, schools and local churches. The aim is to raise money – particularly for the kids in Tanzania, but also for the other charities.
It should be a great day at both events. At Port Macquarie there will be barbecues, kids’ rides, prizes and mountain bike challenges.
Is the mountain bike course at Port Macquarie a particularly challenging one for riders?
It’s a fantastic course. The beauty of the course is that if you’re a more serious mountain bike rider, you can go harder and challenge yourself more in the technical areas. And for those who are not such experienced cyclists, the course is easily ridden. Basically, the course suits everyone from teenagers up. You can ride as much or as little as you like, and ride in teams. The more hard core riders can ride for the full 8 hours.
How do the people riding on the day actually raise money for Pedal Against Poverty?
Money is raised through sponsorship – similar to World Vision’s 40 Hour Famine. Everyone participating receives a booklet and they ask friends and family to sponsor them. Receipts are issued to the sponsors, and donations can be tax deductable. Participants can raise as much or as little as they like – one of our cyclists last year raised $4,000 alone!
Is there an age limit for participants at Port Macquarie?
No – that’s the beauty of it. There’s no age limit, but obviously children 14 or under will need adult supervision. There will be a little circuit that the very young children can ride around in as well.
How can interested people enter the event?
We are always looking for people interested in entering the event. They can register online at www.pedalagainstpoverty.com
These events are held every year – we’ll be back again next year with both the Sydney and Port Macquarie events.
If anyone wanted to come on board as a sponsor, donate funds or items to raffle, that would also be fantastic.
Interviews by Jo Atkins.