Liju Cherian –
MUSCAT, MARCH 10 –
Tremendous grit and determination saw them through. Cycling 1,438 kms from Muscat to Salalah for 7 days, 8 enterprising professionals with a charity bent peddled successfully to complete their mission. The journey was a complete changeover for the 3 Brits in David Graham, Sean Hennessey and Nicholas Cole, Chris Reijmer (Dutch), Severino Simeone (Australian) and Canadians namely Patrick Dodge, Yuri Lipkov and Wallace King.
This challenge has been inspired by David Graham’s brother Stevie Graham who tragically passed away in a car accident in 2014. He had earlier lived and worked in Columbo and intended to ride around Sri Lanka to raise money for The Rainbow Centre. It was for this noble cause these wonderful souls helped raise funds by cycling to Salalah and to help build a new classroom in Sri Lanka.
Says David Graham, the team leader: “Cycling gives you head space and time to reflect on life. I often got into a rhythm and went into a meditative state. There were many times when I thought about my late brother and my mother, remembering the good times and wishing I spent more time with them.”
For David the fundraising perspective stands out. 3 years ago Stevie Graham, his younger brother died in a car accident, and due to his links in Sri Lanka, Stef Graham, his mother, has been working on his legacy there and fundraising for the small charity.
Recalls Helen Graham, David’s wife: “The impact on the family when Stevie died was enormous and for me the priority was to hold my family together. The charity was a focus which made something positive come out of an incredibly tragic situation. My role began with running a marathon to raise funds for the Rainbow Centre but this was just one of the great many challenges undertaken by many. Once we had raised enough to build ‘The Stevie Graham Classroom’, David’s mother and some of the extended family and friends travelled to Sri Lanka for the inaugural ceremony. They held a Buddhist blessing and were privileged to meet the children, staff and volunteers we had heard so much about. The conditions were appalling yet the Rainbow Centre provided hope.
Helen further says she is proud of what the men have achieved, the money raised, the determination to fit this challenge despite their busy schedules and the impact that this is going to have in Sri Lanka. Amazing what a bit of cycling can do. Its primary focus is to enable children to access the educational system.”
David’s mother Stef Graham, passed away on March 4, 2016 in Muscat on a holiday. The family is making sure that they continue the good work she started.
When David presented the charity forward to the team, there was unanimous support, for which he is extremely grateful. “It was not passive support; every team member has lent on their families and friends to contribute. The funds rolled in thick and fast and they continue to roll in from all corners of the globe.”
Says Sean Hennessey: “We took note of several precautions right from support vehicles, first aid kit, navigation capability and phones, chargers, sunblock, a defined way to ride that optimised safety. More importantly, gallons of water, plenty of right food having high carb content, electrolytes to replenish lost salts, proper riding gear including helmets, spare parts and inner tubes.”
Since 2014, led by Stef Graham, David’s mother, Stevie’s family and friends have raised enough funds for a classroom to be built, which is up and running and is making a huge impact on the children. They are now oversubscribed and in desperate need for another classroom. All though Stef is no more, they continue to take on the challenges.
The Rainbow Centre, a UK registered charity, provides education, welfare and loving support to children living in extreme poverty in south western Sri Lanka. The cyclists are thankful for the support received from local business houses. Oman Air sponsored the flights, while Crowne Plaza in Duqm and Salalah and Ras Al Jinz turtle reserve provided free accommodation.