A local 15-year-old is determined to help her peers in the developing world escape sex slavery and childhood marriage by getting them to school safely, and she is hoping that other Santa Ynez Valley residents will contribute to her cause.
The focal point of her Lotus Pedals campaign is a bike ride on Saturday, May 11, starting at 8 a.m. at Sunstone Winery at 125 N. Refugio Road. For every $75 she raises, the nonprofit Lotus Outreach International will give a bicycle, a pump, a lock and tools to a girl in rural Cambodia who lives more than a mile from the nearest school.
“These girls have a hard time getting to class without a bicycle, which can lead them to drop out,” said Tsering Hauenstein, the Santa Ynez High School ninth-grader who is organizing the effort. “This is especially sad because then they can end up getting married and having kids before they are 12! And there is also the danger of sex trafficking.”
“Girls who walk to school in rural India and Cambodia are raped at staggering rates. Studies have shown that riding a bicycle to school is much safer, and girls often ride together,” said Tsering’s mother, Kristi Hundt.
The ride offers two relatively flat routes of 6 miles and 13 miles. Both are “kid-friendly,” but riders of all ages are welcome. Pre-registration is encouraged to help with logistics, but not required.
Tsering became involved with Lotus Outreach International last year during a two-day internship while a student at Dunn School. (Dunn requires all eighth-graders to connect with a nonprofit organization for two days.) Her mother has known board and staff members of the organization for years, but the internship prompted Tsering to organize their first Lotus Pedals ride a year ago.
“Last year, we raised $7,500, which was our goal. That means 100 bicycle scholarships, and therefore school for two years for 100 girls in the developing world,” Hundt said.
When Lotus Outreach gives a girl a bicycle scholarship, her parents or guardians must sign a contract agreeing to keep her in school for two years. Lotus Outreach and their partners then monitor the students’ progress and verify their attendance.
This year’s goal is another 100 bicycles. People can help by donating any amount of money, riding in the event, asking civic clubs or employers to donate, spreading the word on social media (using the hashtags #LetsRideTogether and #EducateAGirlChangeTheWorld), or volunteering during the ride. With two separate routes this year, more volunteers will be needed.
Tsering intends to continue the ride every Mother’s Day weekend until she reaches the overall goal of 1,000 bicycles.
Riders should meet in the Sunstone parking lot at 8 a.m. on May 11; rides begin promptly at 8:30 a.m. The beginners will take an out-and-back route starting south on Refugio Road and turning around at the end of the pavement, a total distance of about six miles. The 13-mile route goes north on Refugio, west on Roblar Road, south on Alamo Pintado Road, and back to Refugio via the dedicated bike path that parallels Highway 246.
At the end of the ride, refreshments and vouchers for Figueroa Mountain beer will be provided in the Sunstone staging area. The event ends at 10:30 a.m.
To volunteer or get more information, send email to email@example.com.
To register, to donate online, and to learn more about the local ride and about Lotus Outreach International, go to lotusoutreach.org/1000bikescampaign or just go to lotusoutreach.org, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on “1000 Bikes.”