1,063 km., 40 men and 20 Three Wheelers for Goodness

By Maheen Senanayake

Forty Asia-based European and Asian drivers, otherwise employed in financial and corporate spaces, will rise to the challenge of riding 20 three-wheelers from Jaffna to Galle in six days from September 19 - 26 to raise US$ 100,000 for the Foundation of Goodness, sacrificing both well earned vacation time and money.

For only the second time in their lives these drivers who have all borne the entire cost associated with the ride are on a mission to make a change for the good.

Michael Phelps, Alex Longman and Giri Candiah reminisced some of those heart rending moments during the Indian leg of the challenge in 2013 which saw 11 three-wheelers and 21 drivers ride across India covering 1,200 kilometres.

The three were all praise for the Foundation of Goodness (FOG) saying, "we have been planning this ride for one and half years and this would never have been possible if not for the Foundation of Goodness", said Phelps and Longman.

It was an emotional briefing as the power point slides started playing.

"We met kids who had never seen a tennis ball, others had never held a bat in their hands, we saw kids who were handed packets of jelly beans, take one each and pass the packs around – we were stunned," said Phelps whose recollection of those moments were visible as he emotionally recounted the adventure at a press briefing held at the Foundation of Goodness, the ultimate beneficiary of the funds to be raised.

"Untouched by the consumerism of the west, some of these children in India only needed the bouncing of a tennis ball to put a smile on their faces. At one point we watched with amazement how the simplest of gifts brought a smile on a little kid’s faces only to find out as we left that all the kids at that orphanage had been infected with HIV and that none would outlive age 15. We didn’t speak for half an hour," said an emotional Phelps justifying their commitment to the cause of charity.

"All the monies we raise through advertising will be channeled 100% to the charity and all of us riders are bearing all our costs personally," explained Alex Longman. "Each of the riders are spending approximately USD 2,500 plus their own airfare, accommodation, and the fuel for the ride."

"We already have some big names on board including Coca Cola, Sri Lanka Tourism, Subway Sandwiches, the Coffee Company from Australia and Bajaj from David Peiris Motors," noted Kushil Gunasekera, founder and Chief Trustee of the Foundation of Goodness.

The entire trip From Jaffna to Galle will see the riders cover 1,063 kilometres. Apparently they will all receive their international licenses shortly and undergo a rigorous three wheeler handling and terrain familiarization before the ride.

The ride is organized by the PMTT Challenge Team, Singapore, in partnership with the Foundation of Goodness in Sri Lanka and funds raised will be donated to selected charitable and developmental projects under the stewardship of the Foundation of Goodness in Sri Lanka, as well as to ‘Food from the Heart’, Singapore.

Meanwhile, the PMTT Challenge Organizing Committee presented a cheque for Rs. 1.6 million towards the construction of a reverse osmosis water purification plant in Mihintale initiated by the Foundation of Goodness. It is believed this will help protect a few at least from the contaminated water believed contributing to Chronic Kidney Disease in the area.

The plant is expected to be completed by the time the ride begins as the convoy is expected to ride through the village for a formal handover to the villagers in September.

Throughout the briefing, Phelps, Longman and Candiah were visibly moved and appeared committed to making change.

"We are leaving the disbursement of the funds and the actual projects in the hands of the Foundation of Goodness," explained Phelps.

"Our children have everything but these kids, to put a smile on their faces – that was something. Our experience in India rendered everything we have done in the form of work up to now meaningless. Some day I will provide for my family and commit myself to charitable work," Longman went on to say.

Alex Longman, Paul Davies, Andrew Barrett, Edward Harman, Matthew Seigel, Vincent Hollis, Michael Phelps, Marti Hollis, Eamonn Ling, Dave Allen, Andy Stephenson, Alex Wiliams, John Fairs, Chris Roe, Adam Mather-Brown, Teymoor Nabili, Nick Sutcliffe, Derek Seeto, Sam Henderson, Edward Sanderson, Sam Evans, Gary Eidsvik-Moody, Greg White, Chris Knop, Angelo Perera, Derek Van Pelt, Brad Ridge, Viay Sirse, Simon Akeroyd, Brett Wright, Jerry Steele, Collin Eckles and Giri Candiah will be joined by a few more of their colleagues in this heartwarming act of compassion.

"Their families too are making their share of contribution and sacrifice to enable this action," said Kushil Gunasekera. "They will be joining them at the end of the trail for a few days in Sri Lanka."

The initiative will also provide exposure to some of the internationally lesser known parts of Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka Tourism has quickly hooked on to this opportunity, he further explained.

The Foundation of Goodness was established in 1999 to bridge the gap between the rural and urban populations. Operating principally out of Seenigama, the devastation caused by the 2004 tsunami was a great challenge to overcome, which was seen as a chance to turn a setback in to a blessing by rebuilding the village.

For information please visit www.unconditionalcompassion.org.

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