Cyclist raising awareness of children’s charity

  • Jun. 8, 2011 3:00 p.m.

Tana Silverland’s estimated 30-month trek across Canada aboard the trike began a year ago in Whitehorse

GEORGE BROWN/Ponoka News

Typically, when marathoners run through Ponoka they’re trying to raise money for their charity of choice.

Tana Silverland’s recent trip though Ponoka was a little different.

First, she’s travelling on a recumbent bike nicknamed “Ranger.” Think of it as a backward tricycle with the two wheels in front.

Second, she’s cycling across Canada to raise awareness of SOS Children’s Villages not to buttonhole residents for a donation — although she was given a donation from one supportive Ponoka resident.

Third and perhaps most of all, Silverland is not taking the shortest direct route from sea to sea to sea.

“Anything but, which fortunately is sort of the point of the whole journey as far as I’m concerned,” she said in an interview, “given the whole reason for undertaking the journey is to try to spread the word about SOS Children’s Villages as widely as possible.”

It’s not a marathon; there’s no deadline to meet. The challenge is simply to visit “as many communities as I can before reaching the other side.”

Silverland’s estimated 30-month trek across Canada aboard the trike began a year ago in Whitehorse, Yukon. “For me, the longer it takes me, the more successful I’ve actually been.” The trip is expected to end at Cape Spear, N.L. late next fall.

Founded in Austria after the Second World War in response to the large number of children orphaned by the fighting, SOS Children’s Villages is raising more than 80,000 children in 500 villages across 132 countries.

“If you name a country, they are more than likely there.”

And judging by the comments the 38-year-old cyclist has heard from residents in the communities she has visited in the Yukon, British Columbia and so far in southern and central Alberta, there’s plenty of work ahead to spread the word about SOS Children’s Villages.

A common response is that they’ve never heard of the charity before, “let alone the fantastic work they’ve been doing around the world.”

Thousands of Canadians now know about the charity and the work its volunteers do to support children.

Silverland visited the SOS Children’s Village in Surrey, B.C.

“Rather than building large institutional orphanages whose staff are professionally paid to take care of children, SOS Children’s Villages builds mini villages of family homes. They are staffed by moms and dads.”

The love, respect and security they receive in the village has a positive effect on the attitude of the children and the success they will enjoy in life. “For as long as the child needs the help, the help is there.”

A recent immigrant to Canada from England, Silverland is getting to know the people and the places in her new country through a mission she calls: “A Place to Call Home.” Canadians can follow her adventures through her blog at www.tanasilverland.wordpress.com or on Facebook. Where possible, she has visited with school children along the way and made presentations to service clubs and encouraged them to learn more about SOS Children’s Villages. Go to www.soschildrensvillages.ca to learn more.

Silverland has been awed by the scenery she has cycled through in the first year of her journey and by spending time in each community she passes through, she now has a sense of the camaraderie that links Canadians to the land. Sitting slightly off the ground, she has a low level vantage to see the landscape roll by — from lambent sunrises, and verdant foothills, to the vistas of prodigious Rocky Mountain passes.

She’s now headed up to the Peace Country before turning back and leaving Alberta through the Border City of Lloydminster “in a continually loopy fashion.”

Cycling about 100 kilometres a day — depending on the distance between towns —Silverland has relied on the kindness of strangers for room and board at day’s end.

Emergencies and mechanical mishaps have been few and far between. More often than not it’s been the weather that has thrown Silverland a curveball but by now she takes it all in stride, “I’ve given up trying to predict the weather. I just carry on cycling. The weather does what it does and I just deal with it.”

And Silverland has been bombarded with all Canadian weather can offer.

But she is undaunted.

“I do believe the journey is more important than me getting wet.”

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