After having staged 9 successful annual charity rides, the Hanoi to HCMC (H2H) charity bike ride team started its 10th annual journey from Vietnam’s capital city in the north to the country’s southern economic hub, Ho Chi Minh City.
At the send-off on March 31.
The 15 volunteer riders from different countries and backgrounds are embarking on a 2000km ride, which will last for 28 days, through Vietnam’s picturesque countryside, following sections of the famed Ho Chi Minh Trail to raise money for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in Vietnam.
The charity ride take four weeks and riders have to cycle between 80 to 100 km each day in difficult conditions of mountains, dangerous roads, mad traffic, extreme heat, and intense humidity.
Children from Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Hanoi join at the starting line at West Lake and hand flags to each rider as a gift of good luck for the 30-day ride.
Do something for Vietnames children
Andy Fischtrom, Justene Wilke, and Kacey Killingbeck are daring enough to participate for a second time. Andrea Towne and Zachary Kester are courageously joining the ride for a third time. Justene Wilke participated in the inaugural ride in 2009 and is being welcomed back for the 10th anniversary ride.
Both of the two Vietnamese participants, Nguyen Vo Vuong Loc and Nguyen Bich Thao, are new to cycling tours.
“This is my bucket trip. I'm always grateful for my life, my beloved family and the amazing people surrounding me. However, I also know that we don't live in a perfect world because there are always children out there in need. Admittedly, it's time to walk out of my comfort zone and give back,” Bich Thao shared.
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.
She added that if her father was not busy at the last minutes, he would have joined the charity ride as well.
Right before the start of the H2H adventure, children from saigonchildren drawing class had the super-cute idea of decorating triangle flags and sending them to Hanoi in order to excite the rider team.
A full decade of admirable work
An American participant, Justene Wilke, said participating in the H2H Charity Ride is an amazing adventure and experience.
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.
According to her, not only is H2H an amazing adventure, but it is also linked to charity. Through online fundraising and events held here in HCMC participants raise money for selected organizations that work with poor, disadvantaged children in Vietnam.
“I first joined H2H in 2009 (the first year) because I thought it sounded like a wonderful adventure and experience. I was eager to see the parts of Vietnam that tourists don't visit. I also wanted to do something positive and give back to the country that had been my home for a little over a year and raising money for the charities my school worked with seemed like the best way.”
She said, the loosely organized, all-volunteer group first cycled from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (hence the H2H name) in 2009, when a group of teachers from ILA decided that they wanted to do something different.
“Back during the first ride in 2009, we had one support vehicle, no sponsors, no matching bike kits that identified us as charity cyclists, very few spare parts for bikes, and I'm not sure we even had a first aid kit. Smart phones didn't exist (at least for us cyclists). We didn't use GPS to navigate. I only had a paper map and we read road signs with some guidance from our driver and locals. Every rider was an English teacher/former English teacher, except for my friend from home that came over to visit me and do the ride. Now H2H is far more organized, is more prepared for bicycle or medical problems, and with sponsors is able to raise more money for charitable organizations,” she shared, adding that she was proud that the ride has continued into a 10th year.
Recalling the the most difficult part of the journey, she said: The hardest part is the mental difficulty because there will be days where you're tired, hungry, and your legs hurt. Those are the days where the idea of getting back on the bike and cycling is extraordinarily difficult, but it has to be done.
"On the harder days, I like to pid my ride up into smaller chunks and take breaks, for example, counting kilometer markers and stopping every 15-20 kilometers for a cold drink and snack. I also like to stop and take pictures so I can enjoy the beautiful countryside," Justene said.
With the ride still only just beginning, riders have already raised over 40% of their target funds. Donations can still be made on https://www.justgiving.com/teams/h2h2019 throughout the ride and up until the end of May.
All funds donated will be distributed across five deserving charities, including the lead charity Saigonchildren, together with the ILA Community Network, Live and Give, Know One Teach One (KOTO), and Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. And remember, 100% of funds donated will go directly to these wonderful organizations.