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The ride of a lifetime for a good cause

“Riding on two wheels has been my passion for as long as I can remember,” recalls Nicole Rößler, Senior Manager MarCom at NGK SPARK PLUG EUROPE. In December 2018, Nicole went on the trip of a lifetime, for a good cause. To raise money for an emergency fund for the people of Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in Asia, she rode a simple 110cc scooter almost 1,400 kilometres through the Cambodian wilderness: a charity ride organised by the non-profit organisation Kleine Hilfsaktion e.V.. Her employer, along with many others, sponsored every kilometre she drove. By their return, NGK SPARK PLUG’s Senior Manager MarCom and her 12 fellow ‘Fundriders’ had raised almost 74,000 euros to financially aid people affected by disasters such as flooding, storms and drought.

The route led Nicole and the other 'Fundriders' across the Cardamom mountains, passing the floating village of lake Tonle Sap, and rewarding them with a view of the astonishing ancient temples of Angkor Wat. “I hadn’t seen anything quite like it before,” Nicole says.

“Every kilometre I drove made a small contribution to the Cambodian people,” she continues. “As a ‘Fundrider’, I had to find sponsors for each kilometre. Of course, I covered my own travel expenses. One hundred per cent of the donations will be used for aid projects in Cambodia – be it to supply a school or village with clean water or to create ponds and pumps to help agriculture even in periods of drought,” Nicole explained. The ’Fundriding’ project was initiated by Roland Debschütz, a former motorcycle pro. He founded the development aid organisation Kleine Hilfsaktion e.V. in 2007, when he travelled to Cambodia to visit his friend’s godchildren, whom they had been supporting financially for many years. Finding poverty and challenges like an enormous infant mortality rate, which in some areas in the north is up to 50 per cent for children under five, Roland wanted to do his utmost to help. Another goal was to provide as many people as possible with access to education and clean drinking water.

“We visited a school where the ‘Fundriders’ had financed a rainwater processing plant,” says Nicole. “Many people in that area had been suffering from gastrointestinal complaints. It was great to see what an impact can be made by providing clean water, and educating children and their families about the importance of washing their hands,” she explains. Thirty of these rainwater processing plants have been set up and financed by the organisation so far, as well as 1,000 eye operations for children in need.

Many young people in Cambodia suffer from cataracts, which start very early because of the high UV radiation and dust pollution. In addition, infants suffer from diseases known as ‘the hanging song’ or ‘the proliferating skin’, both of which lead to complete blindness even in infancy. The cataract operations themselves are free of charge, but food, transport, sunglasses and follow-up examinations add up to about 60 euros and cannot be financed by the patient. This is where the non-profit organisation needs to step in.

Since 2011, Kleine Hilfsaktion e.V. has even run its own school near the city Pursat. Nicole and her fellow ‘Fundriders’ were able to visit this school and attend a party, held by the 269 pupils. Some of the school’s former pupils have since graduated and now attend college in Pursat or Phnom Penh, financed by the organisation.
Apart from being able to combine her love of two wheels with charity support, Nicole chose the organisation because “It’s small, and you can find out on the ground which projects are being carried out and how donations are being used,” she says.
Every ‘Fundrider’ also had to organise a wheelchair and transport it to Cambodia, where it was personally handed over to someone in need.

That wasn’t enough: “Half of my backpack was filled with soft toys. I would store them in the scooter, in the helmet box. Every so often along the way, when I saw children staring at us with a mixture of curiosity and caution, I would stop and give them a toy. They were overjoyed,” the Senior Manager MarCom says.

Apart from the beauty of the country, Nicole also felt overwhelmed by the other challenges Cambodia has to face, like pollution and traffic. Even though Cambodia still has a long way to go, the support of the ‘Fundriders’ is definitely helping the cause.

If you are interested in either sponsoring or participating in the ‘Fundriding’ project, go to https://www.fundriding.de/?lang=en.