A small group of cyclists, primarily from Towson and Lutherville neighborhoods, is preparing for a grueling five-day, 365-mile journey across the state of Maryland to raise awareness and donations for the women and children in Cambodia and Malawi.
The program, now in its second year, is called RIDE/365, organized by Women Who STAND/Baltimore, a volunteer advocacy group supporting Baltimore-based international relief and the development organization World Relief.
The statewide ride that begins in Oakland, Md., on Sept. 18, and extends to the Eastern Shore and Annapolis, ending in Baltimore on Sept. 22. Despite the challenges of the race itself, Stoneleigh resident Kris Bailey, event organizer and crew member supporting the nine cyclists, says the team has never lost perspective of why they are riding.
"Five long days and 365 grueling miles on a bike is worth the pain in order to raise awareness of and provide funds for the hardworking, poverty-stricken women in Cambodia and Malawi," said Bailey. "We are honored to work with these women as they ride to advocate for some of the most vulnerable and underprivileged women in the world."
According to cyclist Debbie Foreman, of Lutherville, the team rides between 25 and 70 miles several times a week to prepare for the event. The time and energy invested in the training they do, including supplemental spinning classes and core strength training, is all part of providing community-to-community aid, regardless of the nearly 9,000 miles that separate them from these women and children in need.
"False assumptions deceive us into rendering ourselves useless," Foreman said. "We think, how can we possibly make any difference in the lives of women and children in Cambodia or Malawi? World Relief is a reputable aid and development organization that produces, in partnership, sustainable, effective change for the world's most vulnerable people. The resource of good health, enabling me to bike 365 miles, (along) with World Relief's experience and knowledge, means sustainable change for others."
Two years ago, members from Women Who Stand/Baltimore visited Cambodia. They observed several programs involving maternal child health, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, and microfinance, the lending of small loans to communities and individuals for business upstarts.
"We witnessed firsthand the innovative and sustainable work that World Relief does on behalf of the world's vulnerable," said Foreman.
Amy Davidson, of Rodgers Forge, will be cycling the entire event as well. She views the challenges these women and children face from the perspective of a parent.
"As a mother, I do my best to protect my children from the harms of this world. The money raised from this bike ride will empower mothers in Cambodia and Malawi to protect their children from the dangers that are coming into their communities."
Joining Bailey as crew members are Maria Wetherington, also from Stoneleigh, and Anne Carney, of Towson. Local cyclists who will be riding with Foreman and Davidson include Allison Gerbereux, West Towson, and Towson residents Megan Saunders and Betsy Goodman. To learn more about the group's journey or support their cause, go to http://www.worldrelief.org/womenwhostand.
PHOTO: Maria Wetherington (right, Stoneleigh) and Amy Piunti (left) train locally in preparation for RIDE/365, which begins mid-September.