PMTT Charity Tuk Tuk Ride from the North to South

One and a half years ago, we were contacted by three incredible men who had a novel idea - they wanted to bring a group of friends who were mostly expats working in the Asian Subcontinent to ride Tuk Tuks all around Sri Lanka and conduct charity projects along the way. This initiative followed a trip by 20 friends in 2013 to celebrate the 50th birthday of Nick Sutcliffe by traveling from Chennai to Goa in India riding Tuk Tuks. Along the way, the group of friends had the opportunity to work with various community development groups including a home for children with HIV which deeply impacted them all. At the end of the ride, the group had raised enough funds to build a school in India.

Soon after the trip, they decided to make this an ongoing event and started making plans for a tour in 2015. Having selected Sri Lanka as their new destination, they wanted a local charity partner and the Foundation of Goodness was a perfect fit for their vision. Having spoken to Candiah Giritharan, Alex Longman and Michael Phelps, we at FoG were deeply impressed by their passion for this project and excited to plan the event with them. This made the Foundation one of two charities supported by this initiative, the other being “Food from the Heart” in Singapore.

As mentioned before, this project was in the works for 1 ½ years, during which time Giri, Alex and Michael flew in to Sri Lanka on many occasions, putting in a lot of time and energy into planning the perfect tour. The aim of these riders was to raise as much funds as possible towards charity, and this was done through donations made by the riders and their friends, and through sponsorships for the Tuk Tuks that they would ride, the money for which was sent directly to the charities. The actual costs for their travel, fuel and accommodation were covered by each individual rider, on top of which they also collected 36 boxes worth of toys, stationery, sports equipment and used computers to be distributed to the charities they planned to visit.

An eventful ride was planned, which saw the 40 riders flying to Jaffna after arriving in Colombo and participating in a breakfast meet and greet with local media hosted by The Steuart Hotel, and the ride officially commenced from Jaffna Central College and over the next 7 days the riders travelled to Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Kandy, Ratnapura and Matara before reaching the final location for the ride - Seenigama, and finally riding back to Colombo in 20 Tuk Tuks.

Before the ride started on Saturday the 19th of September, the riders had a day to practice their Tuk Tuk riding skills on Friday, before visiting the very first charitable project of the ride - the Vaalvagam Special Needs Home for blind children. Some of the riders were moved to tears during the visit, as they spent time with the children to whom they gifted shoes donated by principal sponsor Crocs, clothes donated by sponsor LiCC jeans as well as stationery and sports equipment.

The riders took off from Jaffna on Saturday, with many of them riding the Tuks as though they had years of practice. The team had a pit stop in Panikkankulam at the site of the upcoming North Learning & Empowerment Institute to be established by FoG. What was anticipated to be a long day’s ride was completed in record time by the team and on Sunday morning, they all drove down to Wellaragama in Mihintale, en route to Trincomalee to open a Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Plant at a village severely affected by Chronic Kidney Disease due to polluted water sources.

CKD is a very severe disease affecting many Sri Lankan communities which requires urgent action to prevent its spread, and undo the damage that has been caused so far. By opening this plant which produces up to 1,500 liters of clean water a day, these riders have safeguarded the future of the residents from not only Wellaragama but its surrounding villages as well. The smiles on the faces of all the residents who arrived bright and early to receive clean water was deeply moving, and the riders walked away from that experience with unforgettable memories.

The next few days flew by and the beautiful Sri Lankan landscape flew past as the riders took the scenic coastal route from Trinco to Batticaloa, where they stopped to visit the Batticaloa RCTMS School to meet the kids and distribute more stationery and sports equipment. The riders have also pledged to develop an IT room for the kids, using the computers they brought with them. From Batticaloa, they went on to Kandy and the King George the Fifth Silver Jubilee Memorial Home for Elders in Mahayyawa where an absolutely delightful evening was spent chatting with the seniors and prior to departure, the riders presented the smiling residents with Crocs shoes and other items.

Having travelled along the east coast and then to the mountainous heart of Sri Lanka, the riders now set their sights on the southern coast, as they sped towards Ratnapura, and then Matara. FoG Trustee Pradeep Karunagaran was eagerly awaiting the riders with a grand welcome at the Lantern Boutique Hotel in Matara and after relaxing from their long drive, the riders joined other special guests including FoG Trustee and cricketing legend Muthiah Muralidaran, rising national cricketer Tharindu Kaushal who is a product of the FoG Sports Academy, former cricketer and long time FoG supporter Farveez Maharoof and current National Cricket Captain Angelo Mathews for a special dinner and cocktail event organised by Lantern. At the event, they conducted a special auction and up for bids was a dinner for 10 at Subway (one of the PMTT sponsors), memorabilia signed by Murali, Mahela and Sanga and a special pack of spice blends in grinder bottles produced by Gourmet Goodness as a sustainability income generation venture of FoG.

Friday the 25th was the long anticipated day when the riders would finally visit Seenigama, arriving at the operational base of FoG, the MCC Centre of Excellence and Seenigama Sports Academy. The riders had been travelling and working with FoG staff, carrying out charitable projects for us and finally, they were able to see for themselves the very core of our work, the 30 empowerment activity sectors run from Seenigama.

It was a delightful day, the team visited the pre-school and gave gifts to the toddlers, visited our various sectors and finally, stopped for lunch at the Sports Academy followed by some impromptu cricket which saw them facing off against the FoG Under 13 cricketers for some hilarious shenanigans.

Seenigama was their last location before riding to Colombo and a special Media Conference organised by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau concluded the ride. There were emotional hugs and tearful eyes as the moment drew close to say goodbye to this amazing group of people who had laughed, had fun and engaged their hearts with impoverished local communities.

Looking back on their time here, the riders revealed how deeply they had been impacted by this experience.

“It’s been a very humbling experience, the goodness - the chance to be a part of this!”
Andy Stephenson

“The hospitality of the people has been amazing, we have always been made to feel so welcome!”
Dereck Seeto

“It has been one of the most enriching experiences, coming together with people from all walks of life for a common purpose has inspired me to continue the good work we’ve begun, so the spirit of PMTT will live on. It has been a once in a lifetime opportunity”
Rob Ioannou

“Overall a very humbling experience. What sticks out is how happy people are with so little. Everybody smiles, no one has a sad face and when you see how little they have, it really puts things in perspective.”
Paul Davies

“If I had to sum everything up in one word, it would be - humbled. Very humbled. The grace and humility of the Sri Lankan people has moved me to my core. It’s a profound feeling. It has been an amazing study of the contrast between the depth of pride these people have while at the same time displaying great humility and staying humble.

It’s been an enormous privilege to be able to see this country from the North to the South and there isn’t even a shadow of doubt that I will be back”
Adam Mather-Brown

“This whole journey has been phenomenal. The Sri Lankan people have been amazing, the experience has been amazing and now I will simply have to come back with my family”
Michael “Sherriff” Phelps

“It’s been 1 1/2 years in the making and to see the 40 faces of the riders as they arrived and travelled in Sri Lanka has been amazing, and to see the faces of every one we have met and passed along the road has been even more amazing.”
Alex Longman

“I’m exhausted but happy. I have wanted to do something in Sri Lanka for a long time, and now, I finally feel fulfilled. A dream has come true”
Candiah Giritharan

A very special thank you goes out to our principal sponsor, Crocs and all other sponsors including Subway, Coca Cola, Lantern Boutique Hotel, David Peiris Motors/ Bajaj RE, Sri Lankan Tourism Promotions Bureau, Sri Lankan Airlines, Upali’s by Nawaloka, ElSteel, Yahawa KoffeeWorks, Lite FM, vTrium Energy, idealFX, Amadeus, Singapore - Sri Lanka Business Association, Tellus, eL Boutique Films, Licc Jeans, All Bar One, Dallas Restaurant and Bar, Rhino, SIR, F & K, Russian Restaurant and Bar, Centaurs, Mogambo, dog & bone and bq bar.

And last but certainly not least, Alex, Giri and Michael, thank you for the incredible effort you put into this and congratulations on a successful and heart moving Tuk Tuk ride across Sri Lanka. To all the riders, we cannot thank you enough for all that you have done, and achieved. The compassion, love and commitment you displayed during this trip, combined with an unstoppable spirit that always made the best of any given situation has been truly inspiring. We are incredibly fortunate to have met each and every one of you, and we hope to see you all again!



30th September 2015



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