With the 2016 EduGo Road to Success Ride just a few days away, I have found myself in a flurry of last-minute detail planning and, quite honestly, a bit of a panic. Last week, I got lost somewhere in the logistics of refining route maps, fretting over food orders and rounding up raffle prizes. I’ve also squandered considerable mental energy lamenting the lack of volunteer signups and participant pre-registrations. Somehow I thought the second year of planning this event would be far easier than the first and all these details would magically fall into place. And, of course, I was wrong. So I spiraled into an all-too-familiar pit of berating myself for all the things I had left undone. The promotional opportunities I had missed, the ideas I didn’t follow through on, the other extras I had failed to make time for – those were all I could see, having lost focus on all the truly wonderful things that have happened in connection with this year’s event.
All of this combined to put me in a state of frantic dissatisfaction that threatened to rob me of the very joy that planning this event brings me.
Thankfully, I have good friends in my life. The type of friends who will gently nudge my thinking back into place when it strays too far off course. And one of these friends reminded me last week to remember what is important. To remember the purpose behind all of this. To remember what this event is really all about – which is not the route, the freebies or the food.
Of course, we want to have an exciting and memorable event. We want serious cyclists to discover a beautiful, challenging, well-supported route and great people to ride with. And we want families to discover a fun way for their kids to get excited about helping other kids – with a safe trail ride and a walk suitable for all ages. We want delicious food and fabulous prizes, friendly volunteers and fun activities. We want to become an event that people look forward to coming back for year after year.
But all of that is merely WHAT we do. Tonight, I want to focus on WHY we do it.
Education is the key to transforming both individual lives and communities.
Illiteracy and lack of education leave both children and adults vulnerable to exploitation and mired in poverty. In the areas of the world where Asia’s Hope works to provide family-style care for orphaned children, the high school graduation rate is less than 12%, leaving families with no hope of breaking the cycle of poverty. This summer in Cambodia, I witnessed this sad reality firsthand in the many children begging in the streets, working in the fields or selling trinkets at the markets – all while they should have been in school.
But each child living in an Asia’s Hope home has a promise of a brighter future. One of the many things I love about Asia’s Hope is their unwavering commitment to education. At present, 87% of Asia’s Hope students have graduated or are on track to graduate high school – more than seven times the national averages. And, in addition to providing the means for their children to receive elementary and secondary school education, Asia’s Hope is sending their high school graduates on to university or vocational school, helping to unleash their tremendous potential.
One of the biggest obstacles to regular school attendance is the ability to get to school. And that’s how EduGo was born, when my friend Jeremy Slagle saw the impact a bicycle could make in providing a child with safe, reliable transportation to school. In addition to bicycles for elementary and secondary school students, EduGo also provides motor scooters for university students and supports the Asia’s Hope scholarship fund, as more and more of their students graduate high school and move on to university.
While I was in Cambodia, I had the honor of attending a luncheon with all the Asia’s Hope students currently attending university in Phnom Penh. I didn’t get to talk to all of them at length, but those sitting around me were, without fail, bright, articulate, engaging and energetic young men and women – future leaders and difference makers with big dreams.
One young man wants to open a restaurant to contribute to his community’s culture and create jobs. Another is a future computer engineer hoping to improve the technological infrastructure in Cambodia. The two young women who were at my table are studying finance and international relations, both aiming to make an impact in the developing business sector. And the young man I talked with most is studying law, with the goal of someday serving in government.
In a nation ravaged by genocide just a few decades ago, these students are the future of Cambodia. Under Khmer Rouge rule, an education equaled a death sentence. Now an education equals hope for a brighter future for these students, for their families, for their communities, for their country and, indeed, for the world.
If just one more child is able to get to school because of our efforts, it will have all been worthwhile.
This is my joy, and I’d like to invite you to share it with me. Together, we can help put kids on the road to success.
To register for the ride, sign up to volunteer or make a donation, please visit www.goedugo.org/roadtosuccessride.