Monday, June 7, 2010

A Remarkable Bike-A-Thon

Etiquette at a Bike-a-Thon?

Occasionally I find myself included in an event which leaves an amazing impression on my mind. Last weekend was such an occasion. I participated in the Rock n Ride fundraiser here in St. Andrews. On the surface, it seemed like a simple enough affair arranged by students from the local high school to raise money to fight AIDS in a third world country. By the end of this eight hour marathon the complexities of this event had revealed themselves and showed me a complex of levels of respect and etiquette worthy of serious contemplation.

Opportunities which involve students helping people in need of assistance are wonderful in that they provide a forum for learning many different things. To have such an opportunity created by the students themselves makes the experience far richer. Through a series of complex decisions and actions on the part of students, educators and administrators, this is what happened. First of all, the respect that students were shown by their teachers and the school administration provided the solid foundation on which this event was built. The fact that all of the myriad details were handled solely by the students was impressive. The date, venue (thankfully with an alternate foul weather fall back), arranging for food, live musical entertainment, a 'fleet' of stationary bikes, publicity, sponsors, participants and many other details would have challenged any professional event planner. With the encouragement and watchful eye of their English teacher, Sean Corey, the students pulled it off seamlessly!

Etiquette is, after all, the flexible set of guidelines which allow us as a society to function effectively, peacefully and with an understanding of how to do things in an agreed upon way. From soliciting interest in this event from the community and media to executing it in spite of the bad weather and stressed electrical system, the students did in fact, knowingly or not, follow such rules. As a result, they succeeded.

The other aspect of the project which is noteworthy is the cause itself and what impact it has had on the community. First of all, it introduced tomorrow's leaders to a whole new world most will never have a chance to know first hand. Yet the need for help these people touched these students hearts in a profound way and they selflessly reached out to assist. They also persuaded the whole town to join in and participate. There was no question as to the cause being AIDS or that the people in need live in the 11th poorest country in the world. The impetus was altruism in its most basic form. The chance to experience giving of ones self was the return for this outreach.

The project took on an added dimension after the students heard a presentation by a woman who had spent considerable time in Malawi working hand in hand with the citizens and witnessing their struggle. Hearing her account strengthened the classes resolve to reach their goal.

Learning by example is how we do learn most effectively. In the end, it was the community at large that provided the third learning element. Nothing could have more power to a young person than validation from the community in which they live. To see hundreds of people come out to support both financially and physically in this project is a wonderful testament to the value of the project itself. The 24 teams all faithfully pedaled to the bitter end while being entertained by wonderful live music. The mood was electric throughout the day. Interestingly enough there there was also an atmosphere of total cooperation amongst all of the students and faculty and the participants.

Congratulations are due to the many people involved. That the Department of Education is promoting this form of education gives great hope to a bright future for the youth of the province. Teaching and learning respect for people of all cultures and those who face colossal challenges is the real crux of a great education, in my opinion. I would be surprised if anyone involved in Rock n Ride will ever forget the experience. I know I won't and I am grateful to have been able to participate.