Cumberland man bikes across Cambodia for charity

Cumberland man bikes across Cambodia for charity

Cumberland resident Joseph Trudeau speaks with a young girl from the Sunrise Children's Village orphanage in Sihanoukville.

CUMBERLAND - Biking 50 miles a day for six days through vast countryside, jungles and villages in the heart of Cambodia was difficult at times for Cumberland resident Joseph Trudeau, but he says it was all worth it to help the children of this Southeast Asian country.

Since 2006, Trudeau's employer, Computershare in Canton, Mass., has used its Change a Life initiative to fund projects that assist people living in poverty across the globe.

It all started after members of the company met with Geraldine Cox, the co-founder of Sunrise Children's Village.

"They made a pledge that they would give money each year toward a different program, but this is the biggest program that we have," Trudeau said.

Each year, he said, riders from as far away as Hong Kong travel to impoverished countries to help villagers. This Cambodia trip saw 35 riders from America and Canada.

"I hadn't been on a bike in about 30 years before this, but the main reason I did it was because we were raising money for an orphanage," he said.

When Trudeau first heard about the Ride Cambodia 2014 campaign, he was chosen to just recruit riders and help organize the event.

"But the more I read about it and thought about it, the more I had to actually do it," he said. "I put my name in and I went through the different committees and was selected."

He said each rider had to be physically fit, undergo a rigorous training schedule and raise $5,000.

After reaching out to friends and family on Facebook and in person, Trudeau collected $4,200, and his company matched the first $2,500.

On June 24, Trudeau took a flight from New York to Cambodia, stopping in Korea along the way.

Upon landing, the riders mounted their bicycles and began the 300-mile journey, first stopping in the town of Siem Reap to visit one of the orphanages owned by Sunrise Children's Village.

From there, the riders trekked through the jungle to the temples of Angkor, continuing on to Beng Mealea, Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh.

In Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, Trudeau said the riders visited a second orphanage before finishing their journey in Sihanoukville, where a third orphanage is located.

"We had six days of riding and two rest days. So we did about 50 miles a day on average. It was very tough, 95 to 105 degrees every day with 100 percent humidity," he said.

As the cyclists made their way through the villages, Trudeau said he would see the residents sweeping the stoops of their huts each morning.

"And all the shoes would be lined up neatly, and they were really proud and grateful of what they have, and that's something I don't see here," he said. "It's a very different way of life. I went there knowing I had gratitude for what it is I have in my life, but I came back so much more grateful than when I left."

In the end, Computershare donated $203,000 toward the Sunrise Children's Village. Trudeau said the money would be used to assist the orphanage in Sihanoukville, where 83 HIV-positive children live.

"That money assists them with the buildings, the land, provides teachers, dentists, libraries and books, computers and the medicine for HIV," he said.

Despite returning home on July 7, Trudeau said his heart is still in Cambodia and he hopes to continue helping the children.

"I decided to ask the riders to buy two holiday gifts and send it to the children in December, because I don't want them to think we left and forgot about them," he said.

"I would also like to contribute to some sort of college funding for some of the children, because of the genocide that happened, there are not a lot of educated people there. I just want to continue what I started."

Cyclists from the Computershare Technology Services Ride Cambodia 2014 campaign pose with children from the local village during a stop at the Angkor temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia.