Saturday, September 26 2020


UK expat heartens sick kids with cycle tour

Update: September, 26/2016 - 09:00
Ride of his life: Scott visits children with congenital heart disease at a Vietnamese hospital – VNS Photo
Viet Nam News

Thu Ngân

When Scott Kirkham and his friends finished the last stretch of “Cyclefor 16”, the reception they got almost gave me goose bumps. There were many friends and colleagues, both Vietnamese and foreigners, who had been waiting for hours to welcome him back to Sài Gòn.

There were kisses, hugs, cheers and congratulations all round, and what tiredness the riders and the reception party may have had was swept away. The only thing that could be seen was happiness in their faces and eyes.

The emotions burst out not just because he had completed a marathon 1,600km cycle ride across the country but because of what he had done for Vietnamese children through his ride: raise US$72,000 to save the lives of 55 disadvantaged children with congenital heart diseases.

Because ‘I am a father’

Scott is a Briton who moved with his family to Việt Nam last year. While working as deputy general director of a British company, he has taken part in many charity programmes to help disadvantaged children around the nation. Those trips to raise money helped him realise how grateful he should be and how much luckier he was than many others to have two healthy and happy kids.

“Something must be done to help disadvantaged children who live a life in contrast to our own,” he, his wife and two sons said.

“Let’s have a go and see what happens. Maybe we will not achieve much but we will achieve something. Let’s try and let’s do something.”

The idea crystallised when he found out that as many as 20,000 children in Vieät Nam were waiting for life-saving heart surgeries. Worse still, most of them were from families too poor to pay for their surgeries and many were sure to die waiting for help. Indeed, many were never even diagnosed.

Scott shared his idea with his friend Simon Breen, head of business at Geometry Global and they quickly discovered Heartbeat Việt Nam, whose vision is a Việt Nam where all children, regardless of health complications or lack of access to education, can take advantage of the numerous opportunities available to contribute to society and accomplish their dreams.

They decided to do something that was different, physically challenging, linked to health and the heart, and also children: they chose cycling. And the idea of “Cyclefor 16” was born.

“Cyclefor 16”, in which Scott and his friends would cycle 1,600km across Vieät Nam in 16 days to inspire people and raise funds to save 16 children with congenital heart diseases, has been strongly supported by family and friends, especially his two boys, who kept exhorting him, “Don’t lose commitment, don’t lose energy, don’t give up, ride like the wind and ride like a unicorn.”

On September 3 he and his fellow riders started the ride in Haø Noäi and cycled down the country via Cúc Phương, Huế, Hội An, Đà Lạt and Nha Trang. The final stretch was the 120km from Vũng Tàu to HCM City.

During the 16 days, information about the ride was updated every day on Facebook and a blog to raise funds for children. Money sent to the fund was then directly sent to patients in a very transparent manner. Scott said he had met many children and their families in hospital post-surgery before and along the journey.

In Kiên Giang, more specially, he visited a child’s family.

It was moving to meet the first child who received life-saving open-heart surgery from the “Cyclefor 16” initiative,” he said.

“When we visited Hoàng Huy Hoàng, a two-and-a-half-year-old-boy, and his mum in Tâm Đức Hospital, it was a fantastically rewarding experience.”

Scott’s wife made the first donation, which in turn saved Hoàng’s life.

“It was enormously emotional.”

When I got the chance to talk to Scott after he finished the 1,600km ride, I was truly impressed listening to him talking about the trip and other ideas. It was very touching when he said, holding his two sons in his arms, “I am a father and I wanted to find a way to give something back to this wonderful country.”

Greater than 16

“Cyclefor 16” has deeply inspired many people working and living in this country. When making the plans for the trip, Scott was unlikely to have imagined the magnitude of his achievement 16 days later – saving the lives of 55 children by raising $72,000 – especially because he had never tried something like this before.

“What started as a plan to save the lives of 16 children quickly turned into something much bigger as we realised the amount of support being generated. I am really proud to say what we’ve now saved 55 lives and we plan for more.”

Simon Breen, head of business at Geometry Global, who supported his cause pro bono, said, “When Scott pitched me his idea, I knew we could do something very special together for a wonderful cause.

“I am extremely happy that so many generous people have got behind Cyclefor 16. We’re proud to have helped save the lives of these 55 children.”

Scott said he would continue doing his second job: charity. Many programmes and plans have been drawn up and they will be done in future.

“Cyclefor 16” has many fruitful achievements to its name like giving a new lease of life to children and inspiring people to do good thing as a Vietnamese idiom says “lá lành đùm lá rách” (the leaves protect tattered ones).

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and anything is possible if you put everything into it” – that’s the lesson Scott has for his two children. But, to be honest, it’s a lesson for everyone, including grown-ups. — VNS


1,600km later: Scott and his family after finishing the ride – VNS Photo

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