Pedal power propels US$10,000 to people with HIV/AIDS

Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture,
history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

While Vientiane’s streets have seen an explosion in the number of motor vehicles over recent years, some dedicated souls have been bucking the trend and hopping on the growing global self-powered non-polluting bandwagon of cycling.
Increasing numbers of the Lycra-clad devotees to pedal power are being seen on the capital’s streets, and why not? It’s a great way to unwind, stay fit and often a convenient way to navigate congested traffic.
But one group of Lao and expat riders in Vientiane has added another dimension to their cycling activities - giving back to society, especially those less fortunate.

Team Dai Challenge participants line up at dawn on the morning of International Women’s Day ready for their annual 4-day fundraising odyssey.   --Photos Team Dai

Every year, Vientiane’s Team Dai cycling group embarks on a multi-day tour to raise money, and in this their commendable 11th year they hit many a beaten track on mountain bikes in a sweat-inducing ride to support a very worthy cause – the Association for People Living with HIV/AIDS (APL+).
This year’s fund-raising tour culminated in 22 Lao cyclists and 11 of other nationalities riding a lap of honour around Patuxay monument as the sun set on Sunday, March 11 to celebrate the end of four days of hard riding for a good cause, Team Dai rider Dominique le Roux reported via email.
Starting at Patuxay as International Women’s Day (March 8) dawned, the Team Dai Challenge participants, resplendent in their red, silver and black Lycra, cycled 409.7km on many a back road, including an impressive total ascent of 3,342 muscle-aching metres, on their anti-clockwise route from Vientiane, to Thabok, through the Phou Khao Khouay and Phou Pha Nang National Protected Areas and back again to Vientiane four days later.
The shared endeavours not only brought the team together for fundraising but had the added benefit of reinforcing to all members, Lao and overseas, the richness of the nation’s natural environment and local people’s culture.
“I have lived in Laos my whole life but had never seen such beautiful forests or spent time in such small rural villages – it’s hard to believe they are within reach of Vientiane, even by bicycle,” Team Dai cyclist Seuth Thipphavong said. 
“And finishing at Patuxay after riding more than 400km with friends from all over the world was a very special feeling. It made me proud to know that we were all working together to raise money to support others.”
When all the donations and raffle tickets sold by team members are tallied up, Seuth and his fellow riders expect to achieve their goal of US$10,000 raised for APL+.
As Team Dai notes on its website, APL+ is a local organisation that envisions a Lao society where people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS have a better quality of life, equal rights, and can live without stigma and discrimination. APL+ strives to achieve this by engaging in policy dialogue, through advocacy, by developing the skills of people living with HIV/AIDS, and improving access to treatment.
It is the only organisation that implements activities by people living with HIV/AIDS for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Just as professional cycling teams have great backup to ensure success, so it was for the Vientiane based recreational riders.
While Team Dai cyclists sweated through dust and mud they were keen to laud the noble efforts of sponsors and raffle ticket buyers in funding the cause.
Corporate sponsors such as 5N Plus, NTPC, Phu Bia Mining and Ford donated cash, Avis provided two backup vehicles and drivers, and Crowne Plaza, Spiceroads, Vientiane College, VIS, Salana Boutique Hotel and others provided some great prizes for the raffle, while Joma kept the riders full of energy with delicious eats and treats.
You can still support their worthy cause through donations via the GoFundMe link at www.teamdai.org.
They are keen to stress that every kip raised goes directly to APL+, with the riders having dipped their hands into their own pockets to cover all rider transport and accommodation costs, which for some was quite an investment. While most Team Dai riders live in Laos some participants flew in from as far afield as USA, Germany and the Philippines.
To view their inspiring list of fundraising achievements, more information or to donate, please go to www.teamdai.org.
If you’d like to join the team they warmly welcome new cycling enthusiasts with five rides undertaken every week, according to their Facebook page.
Early morning rides of varying velocities are held on Tuesdays to Fridays around the capital for road and mountain bikes, along with a longer ride on Sundays from 7am.


By Shane Marshall
(Latest Update March 20, 2018)

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