By Clare Ogilvie
Mary Freskiw has been planning to volunteer overseas for years.
This Friday she and friend Christa Gardner will start pedaling to make that dream come true.
Both will leave Whistler to bike their way to Tijuana, Mexico as part of a fundraising effort for Freskiw’s volunteer stint in Nepal with Porters Protection.
“The objective is to provide the porters with first aid education, English education, raise awareness, and to bring clothing and equipment for the porters,” said Freskiw, a volunteer ski patroller, server at Milestones, Whistler Eco Tours guide and nursing student.
“Mainly I will be teaching first aid and I will bring my own equipment and teach them on trail and will be dealing with writing up first aid protocols in Katmandu.”
The volunteer project starts Nov. 2 and ends Dec. 29 this year. Freskiw has organized it through the Travel Cuts site at www.volunteerabroad.ca. Volunteer Abroad is owned by the Canadian Federation of Students (a not-for-profit student organization founded in 1981 that currently unites more than 450,000 colleges and students across Canada). As part of this student movement, Volunteer Abroad connects motivated people with not-for-profit organizations, communities and government agencies in need of assistance around the world.
Donations to Freskiw’s trip can be made through the Volunteer Abroad web link.
Freskiw chose Nepal because she has spent the last several years working in tourist destinations such as Whistler and Banff.
“Porters also live off tourism, it is one of the top two industries in Nepal and so I thought it would be great to give back to a community that also drives and survives on tourism,” she said.
For Gardner, a receptionist at Whistler’s medical clinic, the opportunity to bike to Mexico is the chance to do something with a huge goal.
“I wanted to cross some different territories so I thought why not do something big like this,” she said.
The idea came up last September while the two were sitting around the kitchen table. They have spent the last months gathering the gear they need and doing a few practice runs — with lots of hills.
“It will have challenges,” said Gardner, adding that the trip is about 37 biking days at 100 kilometres a day.
“But we will listen to our bodies. We are patient that way.”
As they make their way through the United States they plan to hook up with fellow bikers through a web network at www.warmshowers.org. It offers bike travellers yards to camp out in and warm showers to ease sore muscles.
“We have had just a really welcoming response from people through the site,” said Freskiw.
If people would like to help the Porters through another avenue they can send needed materials to Base Camp International Centre, PO Box 24721 Khusibhu, Naya Bazar, Katmandu, Nepal.