In Pakistan, the money they raised helped rebuild a village made of brick and stones after it was diminished into rubble by a catastrophy. Through the 14 different charities they work with, they help provide better education for children, alleviate the condition of the poorest of the poor and help a lot of cancer patients on their road to recovery. The charity organisations look after medical, rehabilitative, educational, and therapeutic needs to improve the lives of children.
In November of this year, between the 22nd and 24th, the Road to Awareness cycle challenge, an initiative of Marriott International, is coming to Oman.
Around 37 riders are joining, coming from 15 different countries. Eight of them are female who went through rigorous training to keep up with their peers.
They will cover a total of 447kms, scaling mountains and roads more than 6000 metres high within the three-day cycling period. In and around Muscat, they will cycle around 137kms on their first day. They will cover another 164kms on the second day as they make their way from Nizwa to Jabal Shams and race through the final 146km on the third day from Nizwa to Jabal Haat.
“The three-day cycling event is symbolic of the people working for organisations pushing their physical and mental boundaries to raise money for a good cause. It’s not just about the bike ride. The Road to Awareness supports underprivileged people and children and trying to provide a better way for them to experience this world,” shared passionate cyclist and the founder of Road to Awareness, Guido de Wilde, Chief Operating Officer for Marriott International in the Middle East.
“I’d been actively involved in the selection of the location. In past editions, I would design the roadbook. I would decide where we would go and where we would end. Oman was my decision, and this decision was based on the types of roads and infrastructures available in the country,” he said.
How it all started
De Wilde shared that the Road to Awareness challenge was inspired by Tour de France and was hatched during a senior leadership gathering in 2007.
“Senior leaders running Europe, Africa and the Middle East were attending a specialised programme at that time. After the day’s event, we went back to the hotel, and in July, Tour de France was on. I discovered that my colleagues were also interested in cycling, so I brought up the idea of what would now be known as Road to Awareness,” he shared.
The first year, they raised USD300,000, which benefited Unicef. As of 2014 to 2016, they had been raising almost a million US dollars.
A 2017 report by Unicef has identified that at least one in four children are living in poverty in the MENA region which make the effort a relevant one. Unicef also reported that poverty impacts at least 29 million children. Their living condition deprives them of the most basic life necessities, including basic education, decent housing, food and health care etc.
“In 2017, we did our cycle in Jordan. Last year, it was in South Africa and this year, we decided in Oman. We also moved away from Unicef and are now supporting different charities. Here in Oman, the money we raise will go to Dar al Atta,” he said.
Each of the 37 riders who have committed to the cycle challenge will raise a minimum of USD $1500 each for local charities.
De Wilde said, “What we get out of this is the satisfaction that we can make a difference. Our associates and we are working in a privileged industry with good jobs and are living well. It’s satisfying to be able to give something back to the community and create a culture in the organisation willing to help others,” he shared.
Since its inception in 2008, hotel teams and associates have raised over USD 10 million through Road to Awareness. The cycling challenge will contribute towards the 12th year of the campaign’s overall goal to raise USD $1mn in 2019.
“We are very excited and honoured to embark on our journey through Oman and to support children in need across the region,” said de Wilde.
“The dedication and passion from each of the riders are inspiring and we look forward to doing our part to provide children with a better future and a better way to experience the world,” he added.
This year’s Road to Awareness cycle event is supported by Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and Marriott Bonvoy. Support cars for the cycle event will be provided by AVIS Oman and Mark Tours. Funds raised for Road to Awareness support children in need through 14 charities across the Middle East and Africa.