Cycling with a dream to end violence

Ride for a Dream

(Photo credit: Brian Ejar)

Here’s our interview with Alexander Waddling of Ride for A Dream.

What is Ride For A Dream and how did it start?

Ride For A Dream is a project of Progressive Action for Gender Education (PAGE). We take a group of young people on bicycles to raise money for women’s centres in various communities, all while educating riders on gender-based violence and the role they have in bringing an end to it.

In 2011, I had been volunteering with White Ribbon on Ryerson University’s campus and had previously done small bicycle trips – relatively speaking – from Toronto to Ottawa. A friend of mine, Danny Surjanac, suggested we ride our bicycles to Vancouver. I suggested we use it as a way to raise awareness about violence toward women and he was very much on board.

On May 1, 2012, we took off on bicycles, completely unaware of what was ahead. Over the next 41 days and 4,700 kilometres, we encountered frost, hail, snow, a microburst (similar to a tornado), a mudslide, hills, plains and mountains, and we were nearly caught in a rock slide. Still relatively uneducated about gender-based violence, we just wanted to show people we cared and wanted to learn more. Once we got back, we began planning 2013 with a larger team and support vehicle. Four of us young men rode the 3,700 kilometres to St. John’s more educated, equipped and able to reach out as we went along. This year we had 18 riders from the Greater Toronto Area ride to Montreal via Ottawa over six days. Six riders were women and we held nightly workshops to address gender-based violence. We’re planning next year’s ride already!

Share a recent success story.

Our real successes came from riders. One said: “I feel my life and my relationships with my girlfriend and mother have improved since the ride. This coming from a guy who has a father that could not and would not communicate with him for a variety of reasons, so it really means a lot to me. Hopefully I can one day have a son to pass it down to and keep this attitude alive. Thank you so much for this opportunity.” And he’s expressed interest in getting to the point where he can teach other young men.

Another major success came from women riders. Most had been discouraged from joining the ride because family and friends told them it’s “not safe”. But they walked away knowing they could accomplish more than they thought and left a lot of the men riders in their dust! One of our riders’ bosses commented that she had come back noticeably more confident. One rider got a tattoo to commemorate the experience, and that’s something I could’ve never have predicted.

What’s coming and how can people get involved?

We’re going to be holding monthly workshops on gender, violence and all things similar. We’re going to be posting more information on our Facebook page and website and will Tweet as well. We’re in the midst of planning our next Ride For A Dream on June 1, 2015. If you want to participate, support or follow, contact me at alexander@rideforadream.ca and check us out on our website, Twitter and Facebook page.