HEAL children make big impact on Cycle India fundraisers The Cycle India 2016 team which successfully completed a 430km fundraising bike ride through Rajasthan A cyclist from England who travel 5,000 miles to India to raise funds for HEAL, has described her experience as both “moving” and “humbling”. Mandy Renton, who took part in Cycle India 2016 with friend Ann Bane during February, also praised HEAL’s work with disadvantaged children, describing the charity’s accomplishments as “fantastic”. Writing a personal account of her 11-day trip to Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, Mandy spoke of her delight at visiting HEAL Children’s Village and HEAL Paradise Village after completing a challenging five-day, 430km bike ride from Agra to Jaipur. Cyclists ready for the start of Cycle India 2016 at Agra Describing the final two days of the trip, Mandy, who works as a Director of Nursing in East Anglia, wrote: “Finally we got to meet the children… I don’t really think I can do justice to the experience of arriving at HEAL Paradise Village and being greeted by the children, staff and [HEAL founder] Dr Prasad. This was a moving and exciting finale to a trip of a lifetime. “We were tired, having endured an overnight bus and air journey. Fortunately, an earlier plan of cycling the 10 miles to the village had been abandoned… stepping off the plane at Vijayawada into the heat of Andhra Pradesh was a shock in itself. The cyclists are given a warm welcome at HEAL Children’s Village, Guntur “On arrival there were a large group of children in smart coloured uniforms and their teachers and housemothers in bright, immaculate saris, supported by the sound of drums and cheers. I felt immediately welcomed into the HEAL family, got the first of many magnetic hugs from Prasad and asked my name by many friendly and beautiful children from a range of ages… each one speaking English and sporting a big smile. “We were shown to our accommodation and shown briefly around the nearly finished new build for the girls dormitories. Here began the first of the next two days’ extraordinary acts of kindness; the staff had purchased soap and shower products for us to use in our accommodation… it’s the small things that make a difference. “After a very well-needed freshen up we were offered the first of many, many superb meals and then the entertainment began. It was exhausting and exciting at the same time. “We were welcomed with a parade and yoga display by the children of Paradise Village, then took a trip to the original HEAL Children’s Village at Guntur. On arrival there we were met with a band and procession and more beautiful people; children and staff. HEAL Paradise students greet their Cycle India guests with a march-past “The evening entertainment consisted of singing, dancing and acrobatics. What a talented group of young people and staff who prepared and coached them to excel at their performances. It was most humbling. “During this whole time there were cameras pointing at us and people asking us our names, I have never had my photo taken so many times, it was like the paparazzi. “At the end of the evening we were welcomed by local HEAL supporters for more food and drinks, we were exhausted and piled into the coach for the two-hour journey back to Paradise at 11.30pm. More sleeping on a bumpy bus ride, think we were expert at that by now, although all the ladies were suffering with swollen feet! Cyclist Mandy Renton receives a memento of her trip from HEAL India president Ram Yadav “The next day we had a leisurely rise and superb breakfast; I can’t describe the food as I have little idea what it was. All I can say is that it was lovely and so kindly served by the Paradise staff. Next came performance two, this time celebrating the success of the HEAL-supported schools and their talented pupils, and in honour of the birthday of Dr Prasad. The skills of the young people are astounding and testimony to the power of the HEAL family to nourish and nurture the children. “The HEAL projects are outstanding – the vision of Prasad to tackle poverty through the power of health and education for all enacted through the provision of high-quality, safe and supportive homes for hundreds of children who, without this opportunity, would in many cases be unlikely to survive into adulthood, let alone to live fulfilling and productive lives. The Cycle India team are invited onto the stage during the HEAL Day celebrations at Paradise Village “Plans are now being made for the next Cycle India in 2018. Perhaps you, too, could join Ann and I in the next adventure to support HEAL. Let’s work together to raise support for this fantastic international project.” Organiser Matthew Glover is looking at the possibility of Gujarat as a venue for the sixth Cycle India, with new cyclists welcome. Please check the Events section of the HEAL website www.healcharity.org for updates.