A British woman led eight Cambodians living with disabilities in a 250km bike ride across the country to raise money and deliver supplies to local food banks amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Claire Wyatt, 24, helped her team cycle from the capital Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to bring food to those who were starving due to the financial ramifications of Covid-19.
Wyatt’s team consisted of eight riders with a range of physical disabilities, due to birth defects, illness or accidents such as landmine explosions.
Wyatt, who saw first-hand how the pandemic was leaving hundreds of families desperate, travelled the country with her fellow brave volunteers to supply staple foods such as rice, noodles and canned goods to those in need.
Reflecting on the experience, Wyatt said: ‘Leading this trip was an incredibly special experience for me.
‘Not just the fact that I was inspired by the determination of each and every rider, but also the team taught me every day not to focus on their disability.’
Wyatt did, however, admit to feeling nervous about leading the group such a vast distance in just four days as there can be both physical and emotional barriers to cycling with a disability.
One rider named Dy – who lost an arm in a landmine accident and is a widow with one daughter – was forced to cycle using just one arm to balance his bike.
Other riders such as Vutha – who contracted polio at a very young age which has left him with a paralysed leg – were required to complete the challenge peddling on just one side.
However, it wasn’t long before Wyatt realised just how amazing her team was as they crossed various terrains that she had previously seen non-disabled people give up on.
‘When I was asked to lead this tour, I was nervous about the immense physical challenge this would be for these inspiring people,’ she said.
‘Many questions popped into my head; will they be able to ride our mountain bikes? Do they need special bikes? How do they change gears?
‘For the first ride, I was overly nervous and decided to stick to sealed main roads and only do around 20km.
‘Instead, the riders were very confident from the get-go, and we ended up doing 29km and included sections of bumpy tree roots and obstacle jungle trails.
‘I have seen fully-abled people give up and walk during these paths, but not one of our riders did.
‘Balancing with one arm and going uphill is near impossible, but one of our strongest riders, Naret, showed nothing is impossible.’
Crossing the finish line is an achievement that will stay with Wyatt for the rest of her life as she is proud to have not only supplied food to those in need, but to have helped tackle the emotional barriers for people living with a disability.
She believes the cycling volunteers can take pride in the fact that they are making a real difference to the lives of the local people who would struggle to get by without them.
Wyatt said: ‘The best thing about this ride is that the riders have all volunteered their time to do this. They are so passionate about Cambodia and raising money for others in need.
‘The money raised will feed 99 families for the ongoing future in Siem Reap. Thousands of families are going hungry due to the lack of tourism in Cambodia since Covid-19.’
When asked what her favourite moment of the trip was, Wyatt recalled one of her riders pushing their exhausted team-mate up a hill for 3km.
She said: ‘One moment that stood out for me was when Naret, our only female rider, was feeling tired at 70km.
‘Her fellow rider gently put his hand on her back and pushed her for 3km! They were constantly encouraging each other to push through the tiredness.’
Wyatt hopes they will be able to make the cycle an annual event with more and more people getting involved each year. Should you wish to donate to the cause, you can contribute here.