HIRO 4 Hope: Paul Clayson’s bike ride through Cambodia
On 27th September 2019, RPI Singapore’s Paul Clayson set off on a 700km, five day bike ride through the heart of Cambodia to raise funds for Little Hiros Preschool and Community Outreach Program, a HIRO 4 Hope charity initiative. Here, Paul tells us about his journey and what the ride meant to him and the team at RPI.
First of all, well done on completing the course! Can you tell us about the HIRO 4 Hope bike ride and how RPI got involved?
It is a ride that’s been going on for seven years, and RPI have been involved for the last three. Our regional director Jeremy has taken part for the last two years, but this year I was flying the company flag. We first got involved through clients of ours who actually set up the ride, and it’s an opportunity for us to do something for a local community in our region.
What makes this charity significant to RPI?
Cambodia is one of the poorest regions in the world – particularly the area that the charity supports – and there are people who survive on a couple of dollars a day. Local kids are obviously affected by that, and we wanted to help do something about it. One hundred percent of the money raised goes to the HIRO 4 Hope foundation – and at the end of the ride, you get to see where that money is going, as the children and their families come out to meet you, you see the school, you meet the community. The charity managed to set up their own website this year, so there’s no intermediary 5%: every penny of the donations goes straight to the school.
How much was raised?
It was one of the best years of the ride: over £121,000 raised.
Why did you personally want to take part? Do you really enjoy very long, gruelling bike rides?
No, not particularly! I hadn’t cycled for many years, and I’d never cycled on a road before (it was all mountain biking in the UK back when I did cycle). So I bought a bike in July and did three months of training early in the mornings, heading out every day at 5am to do between 50 and 80 km before work. Then at the weekends, I’d try to do longer rides of around 100km. As we came into September, I had to really prepare in earnest for those 150km rides that I’d be facing during the event.
But no, it wasn’t for the bike riding itself, it was very much for the cause.
Did all that training make the ride itself a breeze?
Well, if I hadn’t done the training there is no way I could have completed it. There were times when I was very thankful for having done the training, but it was still difficult. One of the 190km days was really tough – not just because of how long it was, but how hot it was, and the roads in Cambodia are not great. There’s a lot of gravel, a lot of roadworks, the quality of driving isn’t brilliant…there’s a lot to contend with and you have to keep your wits about you all the time. You’re also in a group of 24 riders, so you’ve got their safety to think of as well as your own.
Were there any particularly difficult incidents?
Yes – one that stands out in particular is when I broke off on my own and ended up between two groups, going uphill, at the heat of the day. It was about 150 km in to that ride and it was a mental battle to keep going.
What was your favourite moment?
Good question. There were a lot of great times, but if I had to pick one it would be the end, when I was presented a medal by one of the children from the school, and I then presented them with their uniform for the next year. The whole community came out to see us and the welcome we got was unbelievable. It hit home what a difference this makes to their lives.
Would you do it again?
I would! It was a bit crazy, and very difficult, but you’re with a big group of people, there’s a lot of camaraderie, the atmosphere is great and the result, of course, is excellent. So yes, I would definitely do it again and would recommend it to other people (with some serious training beforehand).