The exciting CyclePower Cambodia starts this Friday. An initiative of Disability Sport and Recreation, Victoria, participants will go on a five-day adventure cycling tour. The riders will travel 350 kilometres from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
About 17 cyclists and support crew will take on this challenge for a good cause. Money raised will go towards building a pilot women's wheelchair basketball program in Cambodia.
The kingdom of wonder, Cambodia is a country dotted with ancient temples, lush green countryside and pure white sandy beaches. Passing through Cambodia is also the lifeblood of Asia, the mighty Mekong River.
Compared to Australia, Cambodia has a high percentage of people with disabilities. A lack of basic healthcare contributes to a high incidence of infectious diseases including polio. Years of starvation has also taken a toll. And landmines, left over from the war, continue to kill and injure hundreds of people.
The efforts of people like Jared Foster and Belinda Curro aim to showcase what people with a disability can achieve . Both participated in the CyclePower tour last year in Vietnam. They are now looking forward to visiting Cambodia.
Jared, who is challenged by depression, has long wanted to visit Cambodia.
It's been on my bucket list for a while. I want to witness the beauty of the country. I want to immerse myself in the culture. I want to experience the lifestyle by getting to know the people. I want to really feel it all, he says.
Jared understands Cambodia has a disturbing past. It was only 35 years ago that millions of people died as a result of political executions, starvation, forced labour and utter cold-blooded murder. This once beautiful country and its people have literally been torn apart.
But Jared isn't put off. He is keen to see how the country is recovering from such devastation.
I know I won't walk away the same person, especially after visiting the Killing Fields or the torture centre, S21. But I also know it will give me a deeper understanding of the people. It's all part of the experience.
Belinda is also looking forward to cycling through Cambodia. After surgery on a brain tumour, Belinda is unsteady on her feet.
She is currently learning as much as she can about Cambodia. She is already predicting the meagre living conditions and the lack of infrastructure she expects to see in Cambodia.
Through reading, she is also getting an understanding of the poverty left there by years of conflict. Rather than being put off by such conditions, Belinda believes what she is about to experience will only serve to motivate her.
We don't face such devastation and poverty in our society. It really makes you grateful for all we have here at home. I also believe it is so important to do all we can to help those less fortunate, she says.
Helping to inspire
Belinda and Jared hope they can support and encourage Cambodian people with disabilities to achieve their goals.
Being part of this tour gives me the opportunity to help others. My main goal is to help inspire women with disabilities in Cambodia. And if what we achieved last year in Vietnam is anything to go by, this too will be a life changing event for everyone involved, says Belinda.
Jared recalls the attitudes they experienced in Vietnam.
Last year in Vietnam the participants of this tour were treated like gods. People lined the streets to get a glimpse of riders with disabilities and what they were achieving. Just this alone will change attitudes in a country where people with disabilities were once shunned.
Divine wishes all the participants a safe and successful journey.