History / Goals / Objectives
1) How did the TTOH come about? Why Thailand?
A small group of like-minded cyclists under leadership of Hans wanted to combine their passion for cycling, with doing good. The majority of cyclists, including Hans, worked for GSK. With the cyclist’s background, GSK as the main sponsor and the event being in Asia, it led to the cause of health prevention. Thailand was chosen for several reasons. The first TTOH in 2006 ended in Thailand. More importantly, Thailand was the sweat spot on several dimensions as follows. Plenty of needs to help the underprivileged in rural areas in the area of health prevention; a good cycling infrastructure with overall good roads and cars caring for cyclists much more then in some of the Asian Countries; great people; nice scenery and great food. Thus it was a perfect match for enjoying cycling while “doing good”.
2) The charity initiatives focus on healthcare and education, primarily for rural residences. Why here? How did this come about?
See above. In addition, as the TTOH evolved and grew independent from GSK (a broader base of sponsors and more diverse cyclists from various companies and businesses) the TTOH committee broadened the focus and added education, in addition to healthcare prevention. The belief on education is that if you provide kids a chance for education and for knowledge acquisition, you invest in the future and can avoid poverty and poor health. So you are not working only on symptoms to help the poor (e.g. better health care prevention) but you are working on the root cause of poverty. This has a much bigger multiplier benefit effect. The overall themes of health prevention and education is also consistent with the WHO 1-3 focus of clean water, vaccinations and education, offering the greatest return of investment or “biggest bang for the bug”.
3) How has the TTOH evolved over the years, in terms of participants, scope, objectives and goals?
The first phase of TTOH was from 2006-2010 with the objective of health prevention. Specifically TTOH worked together with John Hopkins University (JHPIEGO) on secondary prevention of cervical cancer in Thailand. In these 5 years TTOH raised about US$100,000 to train more than 1000 nurses to do cervical cancer screening and removal of suspicious lesions on about 600000 women in Thailand. It is a known fact that early cervical cancer screening is a major contribution to saving lives. In 2007 TTOH was set up as a registered foundation in Germany so that donations from European residents can enjoy tax relief and thus attract more sponsors.
In 2006 and 2007 participants cycled from Singapore to Bangkok in about 3 weeks. Total cyclists were about 15, although not all cycled all 3 weeks. From 2007 the TTOH was shortened to 2 weeks and cycling was all in Thailand for the reasons mentioned under question 1. Given that the number of cyclists was still relatively small, we wanted to create some critical mass by shortening the tour. This helped to create a very tight bonding within the cyclists, who spread the word about the great experience to fellow cyclists in their respective circles and thus increase number of cyclists. We moved from about 20 cyclists in 2007 to about 40 cyclists in 2010. 2010 was also the first year where we shortened the tour further to one week.
The second phase of TTOH was from 2011 to today, switching focus from health prevention to education for the underprivileged kids in Thailand for the reasons explained in question 2. We partnered with World Vision to build libraries at schools and to donate bicycles and helmets. The libraries serve as knowledge center and access to the world, providing a safe and peaceful environment for autonomous learning. It gives the kids a chance to get off the street and close the knowledge gap. The bicycles are for kids living too far away from school to walk and thus increase significantly the likelihood for the kids to attend school. Usually one bicycle is shared by two kids, riding together. In the 3 years we raised more than US$280,000. We have built 3 libraries north of Chiang Mai, in the south in Ranong and in the north east close to Aranyarathet at the Cambodian border. These 3 libraries are serving more than 450 students and more than 6500 adults in the communities with average 1000 visits/month per library. Over the 3 years we also donated 430 bicycles and 260 helmets at 25 schools. In 2010 we also supported an orphanage, set up after the Tsunami, to provide them with means to create recurring income (for example we provided them with 500 hens to gain income from selling eggs).
There were actually other important reasons why we switched to World Vision. We now have our own project such as building the library. We can therefore ensure that about 95% of our donations go directly to our projects and we can see with our own eyes the positive impact our donations bring as we cycle to the schools for hand overs. Moreover, World Vision is partnering with the schools to make the interventions sustainable so that libraries are fully utilized by the kids and community and bicycles are maintained and reassigned to the kids most in need. Finally World Vision is issuing tax receipts for possible tax relief.
4) How do you see the foundation developing in the future?
We are committed to the theme of education and health prevention and specifically, for the next few years, we plan to continue the partnership with World Vision. Our dream is to have a network of donated libraries and bicycles all over Thailand. As we are expanding the network of libraries, we also like to go back to them to see that they are fully utilized, see how we can help further and learn how we can do it better. In 2014 we plan to go back to our first library north of Chiang Mai.
By now we are having a strong base of cyclists in place. For each of the last three years we were well above 40 cyclists. We see that as the upper limit for logistical and “bonding” reasons. In order to accommodate more cyclists we are moving back to a 2 week format. We believe we now have the equity that we can attract sufficient riders for 2 weeks. In fact after the one week tours in 2010 to 2012, we piloted an “extension week” in 2013. As we expand the number of cyclists we continue with our principle that all the riders pay for their own expenses including flight, food, tour organization and logistics support so that practically all funds raised go the beneficiary.
Finally, we like to broaden the base of Thai sponsor companies and Thai riders, given that the tour is in Thailand and that donations from Thai companies and individuals is tax deductable. In 2013 we had our first two Thai sponsor companies – FBT and TUF and our first Thai rider, Chiratas Nivatpumin from Bangkok Post.
2014 planning has started. We are looking to cycle from Udon Thani to Chiang Mai in week one, followed by a second week to cycle the Mae Hon Song loop. As usual the event will take place in the first half of November. Dates are Nov. 1 - 8 for the first week and Nov. 9-15 for the second week.