Travelling long distances for charity is nothing new, but now thrill-seeking fundraisers are ditching their running gear for overseas rickshaw rallies. Fundraiser Candace Rose Rardon tells us about her epic Indian expedition for charity.
There were many ways my friends and I would raise money for charity growing up – washing cars, selling doughnuts door-to-door, walking around the school track for a dollar a lap. Driving 3,000km across India never crossed my mind – until I heard about the Rickshaw Run.
Organised by Bristol-based company The Adventurists, the Rickshaw Run is a two-week adventure in which teams wobble their way over thousands of miles of crazy Indian terrain in an auto-rickshaw. Since the first run in 2006, participants have raised over £1m for charity.
While teams can raise money for any charity, the event’s official charity partner is FRANK Water Projects, which sells ethical bottled water and uses all of its profits to fund clean water projects in India. To date, the charity has backed projects in 70 villages across India, bringing clean water to more than 100,000 people. My teammate Citlalli and I were so inspired by their work that we decided to focus our fundraising efforts on them.
The months leading up to our departure were part frantic preparation, part ardent fundraising and part crash-course in Indian geography, but nothing could have prepared us for what lay ahead. After a few days of test-driving and hilarious rickshaw-pimping when we got to India – re-naming, re-painting, and installing add-ons from speakers to custom-built seats – we hit the road. Almost immediately, things stopped going according to plan…
Making our way out of Shillong, an old hill station in the mountains of Meghalaya in the east of India, we were greeted by a truly torrential downpour. Navigating the 1,500-metre descent while working our way around potholes that looked more like swimming pools, on roads that looked more suited to the streets of Atlantis, was hardly a gentle start to our journey.
Entering Varanasi at night, we navigated ill-lit, flooded streets in yet another rainstorm nearly tipping over more than once, and in the ”blue city” of Jodhpur, we encountered some frisky cows and goats while steering our rickshaws through the crumbling maze of its old town. Then puttering through Bihar, we were overwhelmed by crowds that came out of nowhere, surrounding our rickshaws: the local villagers were as curious about us as we were about them!
Suddenly we found that our hopes of progressing smoothly were cut off and we were faced with 30km of bumper-to-bumper lorries. Smaller vehicles began to weave in and out of the traffic jam, desperate to overtake despite the fact that both sides of the highway were uneven and thick with mud. It didn’t take long for our convoy to separate. For one hair-raising hour, I skimmed past lorries, dodged bicycles and focused only on the road ahead of me. When I finally came to a sudden stop outside a shop, eyes wide and heart racing, my hands had to be pried off the handlebars.
As a group of men gathered around our rickshaw, a white-haired shopkeeper worked his way through the crowd with two tiny cups of chai for us. We declined at first, nervously trying to explain that we were out of change. He insisted, placing the cups in our hands and saying, “I may be poor, but I still have a heart”. His milky tea – and the warmth of his words – gave us the energy we needed to fight our way through the jam and back on the open road.
There were many more crazy twists and turns along the way, but throughout our chaotic journey across India, the knowledge that we were doing it for a good cause carried us through and made it that much more of an adventure – one that I can’t wait to go back and do again.
To find other fabulous fundraising events in the UK and in exotic places overseas, visit the Charity Choice events calendar. Want to fundraise through us and make sure your charity gets more from every donation? Sign up here and set up your fundraising page today!
This article first appeared in Charity Choice magazine, Issue 10 2012