My name is Borith. I am the REACH Riders Club program manager, before working at REACH I worked as a tour guide, but unfortunately because of the pandemic I lost my job. But every dark cloud has a silver lining and mine was that I had a great opportunity to work with REACH and Cambodian youth.
REACH Riders Club youths celebrating their achievement at the finish line of 200kms in 2 days.
Since I started working with REACH, I have had a lot of opportunities to work closely with youth from a challenging background, which was very similar to my own situation when I was a child.
Growing up, my family were under the poverty line, and my parents were struggling to support me to get an education. I knew that my education was important, so I was always finding ways to raise funds to get an education. I used to pick through the rubbish daily to find plastic bottles and cans to get money through recycling. This small amount of money would then help to pay for my English & Khmer education. Even though my parents did not have a high education, they always wanted me to have a good education, they supported me to become who I am now. I am working here at REACH and feel so great that I can work with the youth who come from very similar backgrounds to myself, and that I am able to help them through REACH’s programs.
200kms in 2 days: Alongside Cambodian families, in their fight against poverty.
I remember when I was in grade 7 (14 years old) my dad bought me my first green city bike, it cost 25$ which I saved in three years. We were able to purchase this bike from the savings from my recycling.The bike made it easier for me to go to English class & Khmer school as I normally had to walk 2 to 3km every day.
The bicycle helped me a lot with my education, and I had a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately, people in my community, especially the other children who had motorbikes, always make fun of me for not having a motorbike. However, while I was at high school, I completed some volunteering work which required me to join team meetings which would take place 25Km away from my hometown. The only option I had then was cycling; everyone would laugh at me and call me crazy, yet after I did my first long distance ride, I was inspired and I continued with it monthly.
After I graduated from high school, I decided to move to Siem Reap 171km from my hometown. I told my village I would cycle there, and they laugh and thought I could not do it. I reached Siem Reap with my bike and from that moment on, anytime I went home I CYCLED. From then I started to enjoy cycling even more and I would join the local cycling race and national championships.
I always believe, no matter what people say, I will just do what I love, and I love cycling.
June, 2015: Borith’s first mountain biking race at 20 years old.
During the pandemic of 2021, Cambodia like many other places around the world was in lockdown. This lockdown caused many problems for Cambodia as the country’s economy mainly relies on tourism. All provinces were placed into either a red or yellow zone, which prevented people from going to work or in some cases leaving their homes for food. Siem Reap was unfortunately in a red zone which meant that REACH was forced to close, and everyone worked from home. All of this time in a lockdown prevented our youth from joining the bike rides and delayed our training for the Side by Side event drastically. As their trainer, this was very upsetting and frustrating.
Luckily the country started to reopen again in October 2021 allowing our REACH Riders Club to restart and with no delay our youths started to join the cycling club once more. It brought me a lot of joy to see our youth smiling and back on the bike training for Side by Side 2022.
October 2021: Our REACH Riders Club returns! With green rice fields, volunteer work in Cambodia is lots of fun for our volunteer leader Darren.
Now, reflecting on our second successful Side by Side event, I would like to share with you the story of Rider #18 and Rider #20 who I was honored to ride 400kms with over the two events.
First, let me introduce you to rider #18 our oldest female youth rider who participated on the first event. She provided a huge boost of energy and good morale for all of the riders around her and was so strong and determined to keep up with the boys and myself at the front of the group throughout the entire event.
Rider #18 nervous to start her 200km journey on day 1.
This 16-year-old young lady faced many natural difficulties with the other riders on the first day, including high temperatures, a scorching sun, bumpy and dusty roads, all of this added extra obstacles to the already difficult and challenging event. Even with these added obstacles rider #18 managed to stay up in the front with all the strongest riders, at the same pace and strength for the first 85kms, however during the last water break rider #18 didn’t feel like she could keep going for the remaining 15km of day 1.
Sitting in the van feeling exhausted from her long first day, rider #18 endured further problems inside the van due to travel sickness. Being from a poor family, rider #18 was not used to travelling by car found the journey so unpleasant that she regained the energy she needed to get back on the bike. In the end, she had enough power to ride the last few kilometres to our halfway point of the event.
Rider #18 and her peers enjoying breakfast out on the water at the half-way mark on day 2.
The next day after lots of rest, stocking up on food and an evening celebrating her achievements with friends, rider #18 was in good spirits for the 2nd part of the challenging event. Starting at the front and maintaining her position the whole way through, rider #18 was a force to be reckoned with amongst her peers and a great positive role model for all other riders in the event. 8 hours later, after riding through beautiful temples and under the shade of the temple trail, rider #18 crossed the finish line of 200km with energy, determination, happiness, and pride. I couldn’t have been prouder of her along with all the other riders.
The second youth I’d like to share a story on is rider #20. I am so proud of him, he was one of the smallest and youngest in the group, yet he was one who committed the most to the event and always stayed in the front of the group to complete his 200kms.
From left to right, Rider #20 and his older brother ready to take on 200kms.
Rider #20 is 12 years old. He has three brothers, and he is the middle one. At the beginning of the ride, we quickly asked every rider about what they wanted from the event. This boy said I wanted to complete the 200Km without going in the van.
It was awe-inspiring what he did during the event. In the first Leg, he was trying to start in the front of the group, and as I was at the front, he was always at the back of my wheels, anytime I was looking back, he was there. During the first water stop and snack stop, he enjoyed eating all the snacks we provided with watermelon, banana, sponge cake and Royal D to keep everyone hydrated.
I started to notice that he wanted to keep up in the front of the group, then I began to increase the speed anytime we were close to the next water stop. Surprisingly, rider #20 was at the back of my wheels again. He showed his commitment and confidence amongst the other older riders.
He was on the smallest bike, yet he was the fastest. This humble young kid was an excellent role model to every rider, and he was showing how much he loved this event and enjoyed the cycling. After a long day with many challenges, Rider #20 rode the entire 100kms halfway to the campsite and enjoyed the experience with his brother and friends, a lot of food and fun.
Rider #20 stocked up on snacks and refreshments at every stop.
The second day of the event had a route with some hills and a single trail and along with the temple of Angkor National Park. After a good night sleep and a lot of food, everyone was ready for to get going. Tired from their first day, everyone was a bit struggle today as the route was sunny, hilly, and sandy, yet Rider #20 managed to be in the front of the group with smiles and laughs.
Inspired by his endurance, another student asked him in front of the group: why are you so strong? Lovely words came from Rider#20’s mouth: “It’s because I drink a lot of water”
Rider #20 was drinking from his 2 ltr water pack at all times – he took Borith’s advice on board and kept as hydrated as possible.
It was such a beautiful kind word from him towards his friend, for this 12 years old rider, he knew how important it was to stay hydrated to complete the 200km’s event. After enjoying the ride through a beautiful place, everyone included Rider #20 reached their destination of 200km’s Side by Side 2022.
I was proud of everyone riders who joined this event. I see how much cycling education everyone has, not just only physical activities, but helping each other during the ride and helping their community from this fantastic fundraising event supported by all sponsors worldwide.
Seeing the youth succeed, reminded me of the time I proved my village wrong.
It is these sorts of accomplishments that stay with someone for a lifetime, and I am so proud to see our REACH kids love cycling as much as I do too.
If you would like to show your support for Borith and our REACH Riders, there’s still time to donate:
Click here to make a donation!
Borith leading the youths through the finish line for the second year in a row for our Cambodian’s children charity: Side by Side Ride!