Four days. 44 riders. 435 Km, $230k: How Ride 4 Ceylon is supporting Sri Lanka’s post-war recovery
Last month, I was proud to be one of 44 cyclists that participated in Ride 4 Ceylon (R4C), a challenging 435Km charity ride from Colombo to Jaffna in Sri Lanka, in aid of the Manipay Green Hospital and the redevelopment of the local Jaffna community.
Following three decades of devastating civil war, the Jaffna region is starting to rebuild, thanks in some part to charitable initiatives like R4C, which is providing a lifeline to communities across the region.
Established in 2017 by ex-pupils of St Thomas College in Columbo Sri Lanka, also known as the ‘Old Boys’, the ride raises funds to support the expansion of vital services at the hospital and help the recovery of the once-thriving Jaffna community.
In two years, the ride has seen a remarkable growth in numbers, from just six people in its inaugural year to over 44 taking part in the 2019 ride. This year, the four-day journey welcomed cyclists from across the world, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Romania and the UK.
For me, the fantastic work enabled by R4C resonates on a very personal level. I was born in Sri Lanka and, although I was still a small child when moving to Australia, the memories and stories of the devastating civil war are all too familiar.
My family and friends were moved by my decision to take part and show support for my homeland. I’ve also been extremely lucky to have received a great deal of kindness and generosity from the company I work for too. After telling a colleague about R4C in passing, EKINOPS offered to be a key sponsor for the event, I was honoured to have the EKINOPS logo emblazoned on my jersey as I set -off on the journey and I’m grateful for their support.
1Km down, 434 to go…
I’m an experienced cyclist – having taken part in numerous charity rides with the City Tattersalls Club (CTC) in Sydney – but by no means am I a professional. When our club was approached to take part in the R4C coast-coast ride, I knew that it would be a real step-up! Not just in distance but in climate and environment too.
A little nervous but inspired by the cause, I and seven others from my club took up the challenge.
Cycling in temperatures of up to 37 degrees is tough, especially when combined with high humidity levels and a tropical terrain. Not to mention the wild elephants we encountered on the way!
Despite a rocky start on day one, which saw us set off too late and caught in the punishing midday sun, we soon found our flow. We started our rides at around 5am each morning. Led by my fellow CTC club members, the group covered around 100-120km a day. We were all determined to finish, and spirits were high to get to the finish line.
But it wasn’t all cycling!
We ended each section of the ride at lunchtime, which gave us some free time to explore the towns of Sri Lanka, including Yapahuwa, Anuradhapura and Kilinochchi. We visited local schools and orphanages to donate books, classroom resources and sporting equipment, and witnessed first-hand the incredible work the charity has been doing to help communities that have suffered so much. The civil war only ended in 2009, and the impact is still very much being felt across the region.
My highlight was undoubtedly reaching the last leg of our journey from Kilinochchi to Jaffna, where we were spurred on by crowds of cheering locals, a band playing music and, of course, the ‘Old Boys’ of St Thomas College, who greeted us at the finish line.
Over $230k AUD was raised this year. The money has enabled work to begin on a new Paediatric and Cardiology Ward, redevelopment to the main hospital and the creation of a new foundation called ‘Hope’ which works to support local community projects.
I would also like to say a huge thank you to my friends, family and EKINOPS colleagues for your generosity and support of such an outstanding cause.
Coincidentally, many of the ‘Old Boys’ of my school DSSC now work within the telecommunications industry and as a result of our involvement, EKINOPS plans to support the redevelopment of Jaffna’s communications infrastructure, providing equipment and services that will be vital in powering the hospital’s new facilities.
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