600 days of the sporty-humanitarian project
“From Vietnam to Italy by bicycle for the disabled”
The non-profit organization Travel for Aid presented the report of 600-day of travelling. The sporty-humanitarian project “From Vietnam to Italy by bicycle for the disabled” is helping Matteo Tricarico to cycle solo across Asia. Starting in Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam on November 9, 2009, Matteo has cycled 20,000 km.
The itinerary take him through the Cambodian and Thai capitals (November 2009), it followed Laos and Myanmar (February 2010), before continuing for three months into the Indian subcontinent from Calcutta to the extreme southern tip along the east coast and back through the centre of the country. May and June 2010 were spent in Bangladesh, followed by a long break of five months in Nepal to wait for the rainy season to pass, a particularly violent season this year in northern India and Pakistan.
In November 2010, at the invitation of the Harmony Home Association Taiwan, Matteo left his bicycle for a month in Kathmandu and flew to Taiwan. Here, with other cyclists, he travelled the length of the island by bicycle from north to south in a tour organized by humanitarian organizations active in the field of HIV / AIDS patients assistance.
With the new year, the project continued into northern India via New Delhi, Bombay and Goa. But due to Pakistan’s refusal to grant a visa to enter the country, Matteo went on to the United Arab Emirates reached by aeroplane. On April 11, Matteo arrived by ferry at Bandar Abbas on the southern coast of Iran and entered Tehran one month later. The next countries he crossed were Armenia, Georgia and is now in Turkey for two months.
From Greece, he will take a ferry to dock at Brindisi, and so to reach his final destination, his birth town Manfredonia, before the cold winter in early October 2011.
The humanitarian purpose of the project is to raise awareness and inform the public about the conditions of children with disabilities.
The project was achieved in partnership with 13 non-governmental organizations and charities. The original philanthropic goal has been expanded to include other forms of non-physical but social and economic disabilities, including aspects of geographical marginalization (such as the student’s hostels for migrant populations children in the Indian state of Gujarat) or victims of contagious diseases like leprosy and HIV / AIDS (e.g. orphanages for HIV-positive children in Taiwan). Matteo visited 26 institutes, mainly psycho-motor rehabilitation centres of children born with disabilities, but he was also in hospitals, orphanages, schools and student hostels.
In addition, Matteo has also been volunteering and engaging directly as an English and computer teacher in rural schools in Bangladesh and Nepal. He also spent a month in orphanages for HIV / AIDS children in Taipei and Cau Chung on the island of Taiwan, where he participated in the information and awareness campaign on HIV / AIDS presenting this project in various schools, universities, military bases and even a women’s prison.
Some hundreds of messages of support and comments followed the publication of videos, photographs and descriptions of institutions, schools, hospitals and rehabilitation centres, through the Travel for Aid media channels, a sign that the message has reached a sensitive part of public following this initiative.
What is your overall impression of the project in this final phase of the trip?
“Even though there are still less than 5,000 km still to cover, I feel like I’m already home. I have mixed feelings: happy for having achieved my goal, and yet sad because this amazing life experience, that has profoundly changed me, is about to end. Both the sporting and the humanitarian side of the enterprise went well above my most optimistic expectations and some how I’m still in disbelief by the number of humanitarian organizations that have joined the project. What began as my personal dream, has gradually turned into something collective that has attracted hundreds of people in various countries. I’m touched by the enthusiastic support messages I’m receiving from people who I’ve never met, but with whom I feel very close to. I must also add that, fortunately, during the journey I’ve had no accidents.”
What are the highlights of the trip so far?
“It has to be the visits to centres for disabled children there were moving moments that have left an indelible mark in my memory and consciousness. Although, amongst everything, a visit to the SIRC (Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre) in Nepal, an institute for physical and psychological rehabilitation of adults who have suffered a spinal injury becoming paralysed and therefore forced to use a wheelchair. One can not help but think that because of an accident almost anybody can be reduced to the permanent condition of disabled. This humanitarian aspect of the project is takes a higher personal importance for me, compared to the discovering and visiting new places. It has given me an inner spiritual enrichment and a superior, deeper sense of compassion.”
What made you want to do volunteer work?
“A number of factors. Some as random, as in Bangladesh with the centre for girls escaped from early marriages and run by the Xaverian missionary. I met Father Luigi who asked me to help him. Or because I did not want to remain inactive while I was blocked by monsoon rains in Nepal and I decided to teach in the rural village of Charikot at the foot of Everest. As well as an almost paternal feeling that led me to look after the babies at the orphanage for HIV-positive children in Taipei. These experiences made me feel very good and fulfilled. I also hope to have passed a bit ‘of my life experience to those young people, with whom I’m in contact with and maybe I’ve inspired some of them to do something for the others as well as for themselves. “
In two months you will reach your destination, what next?
“I’m dreaming to cycle back to Saigon via the Americas, from Tierra del Fuego to Alaska, then to Russia, China and from there I’m around the corner of my residence in Vietnam …”
- The sporty part of the enterprise consists of covering by bicycle the distance of 25.000 kilometres from Vietnam to Italy through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, United Arab Emirate, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Italy.
- The humanitarian side of the journey aims to raise public awareness on disabled children’s education by having meetings with them in special schools and institutes along the way.
Patronages and Letters of Support
The following public and private institutions and organisations gave their patronage and moral support to the project:
- Regione Puglia (Apulia Regional Admistration)
- Comune di Manfredonia (Manfredonia City Hall);
- FCI (Italian Professional Cyclist Federation);
- Università degli Studi di Siena (University of Siena);
- CONI (Italian Olympic Committee);
- AVIS (Italian Association of Blood Donors);
- Italian Naval Association;
- UISP (Italian National Sport Association).
Letters of support have also been received by:
- Commission of the European Union, delegation in Cambodia
- Cultural Association Arcadia Nova;
- Italian embassy in Hanoi;
- ASD (Disabled people sport association);
- Circolo Unione di Manfredonia (Cultural Association city of Manfredonia).
The following ONGs and charities joined the project:
- Cristina Noble foundation (Vietnam);
- Lao Disabled People’s Association (Laos);
- Disabled People Sport Association – DELFINO (Italy);
- CIAI (Italian Centre for Children’s Aid) (Cambodia and India);
- AIFO (Italian Association Friends of Raoul Follereau) (Vietnam and Bangladesh);
- The Leprocy Mission International (Myanmar);
- Rishilpi charity for Rural Community Advancement (Bangladesh);
- ADDA (Disabled Rehabilitation & Research Association) (Bangladesh);
- Volunteer Society Nepal (Nepal);
- Harmony House Association Taiwan (Taiwan);
- Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust (India);
- Akshay Pratishthan Trust (India);
- Samerth Trust (India);
- Baavar Disabled Association (Iran)..
Fund-raising and sponsorship
- The non-profit humanitarian association Travel For Aid, in collaboration with partner humanitarian and non governmental organisations, launches a fund-raising campaign for selected projects.
- Membership to the association Travel For Aidfor the year 2011. The registration fee is 10 Euro.
- Other forms of sponsorship in kinds are also considered case by case.
Organiser and personal note
TRAVEL FOR AID is a non-profit, apolitical and non-religious humanitarian association.
It aims to spread culture to its members and the general public by organizing charity and sport events or any other activity to attract people’s attention to the problems of those who, by birth or by tragic accident, live with a physical or mental disability.
Furthermore, the association intends to stimulate its members’ and the general public’ creativity with conferences, debates and stages aiming at offering alternative possibilities to vulnerable social groups living at the margin of society.
Matteo Tricarico is external projects coordinator. He was born in Italy on June 18th 1969. He graduated in Political Science at the University of Sienna with periods of studies in England and France. He started his professional career in the European public sector in Brussels before being relocated to the United Kingdom. In 2000, he left Europe for Egypt and Sudan where he dwelt for three years running a tourist promotion agency. Six years ago, he moved to Indochina where he still lives between Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos working as travel agent and tourist guide. He is not married and does not have children. In the last few years, Matteo cycled extensively throughout Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. His last trip of 5000 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City to Bali by bicycle ended in June 2009.