words by Georgia Sparling | photo courtesy of All Hands Volunteers
As we anxiously await copies of our new fall issue, we wanted to share a bit more with you about our coastal cause this issue. Each issue we donate a portion of each print issue to a cause of our choosing, changing with each seasonal issue. For this issue, one of our own team members, editor Georgia Sparling, got to experience firsthand the work of our cause. We're really so proud of her accomplishment!
In June, I was asked to consider joining a four-day, 200-mile bike ride through the Philippines. The cause was right—raising money for All Hands Volunteers, a nonprofit that is rebuilding in areas affected by two typhoons.
But I had hemmed, I hawed, I chewed on my lower lip. Two months isn’t much time for a glorified recreational biker in a relatively flat seaside town to train for a long, occasionally mountainous route in the tropics, and honestly, I didn’t want to be the loser. It was a ride not a race, but still, there is bringing up the rear and then there’s holding everyone back.
Heidi, who had asked me to go, took away my one out.” “If at any time you feel like you can’t do it,” she said. “You throw your bike in the jeep, you get in, you meet us at the end.” For some people, the option to quit might be a crutch; for me it was the safety net I needed. So I trained, I fundraised, I bought bike shorts, and I convinced myself that 85 degrees near the equator was the same as 85 degrees in New England.
After two longs days of travel, Heidi and I finally arrived in Tacloban City, at the All Hands’ Filipino base. I was equal parts excited and apprehensive. We met up with 11 other cyclists for a thirty-mile “test run” around the city where we saw the work All Hands teams of volunteers have done. Forty-two families with brand new, typhoon-resistant homes in one neighborhood, playgrounds in another, and a new school building in still another. It was beautiful.
Two days later we began our ride. Throughout the four days I kept thinking about all the labor that had been put in and would be put in to continue the much needed rebuilding, even as our group, clad in matching blue dry-fit shirts and sweating a truly astonishing amount traversed two islands, ascended and descended hills and mountains, passed through Technicolor green rice paddies, pedaled along switchbacks that looked down on the blue Pacific, and waved to innumerable school children.
We biked with purpose, consistently encouraging one another as our legs got tired and our water breaks grew longer. Somehow, even as we woke up with sun scorched skin and stiff muscles, we seemed to have more endurance as each day progressed. There was no getting in the jeep. There was no need. What had seemed a certain possibility on an unpaved incline on day one, was no longer a consideration. If I fell behind, someone waited. If I caught up, we kept pace.
Were I to have attempted even half of such a ride on my own, I would have ended up in a heap on the side of the road at the mercy of some water buffalo. But I was with a team, unified in a purpose to inspire generosity, to encourage volunteerism, and to simply enjoy the coconut-laden paradise of the Philippines.
In the end, we raised more than $40,000 for All Hands work to continue. Beyond the lush beauty of the islands we crossed, there was still such an obvious need for new homes, schools, and hospitals. More typhoons will come and much infrastructure is still needed. If you'd like to contribute, you can visit their website: http://hands.org
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