A group of three differently abled riders has travelled more than 2,000 km and are more than halfway through a motorcycle expedition across India to raise funds for a Habitat for Humanity project.
The “Build Back Better in Leh” expedition, to help flood-affected families in northern India is led by Vinod Rawat, who uses an artificial limb. The other riders are Manoj Kumar who also uses a prosthetic foot and Santosh Dhumal who is affected by polio.
Along with sponsors such as HSBC and the Rotary Club of Bombay, the riders aim to raise 1.5 million rupees (US$33,000) to build five houses.
On 31st July, the riders were flagged off in Mumbai by HFH India’s goodwill ambassador, actress Jacqueline Fernandez and Channel V’s video jockey Purab Kohli.
“The indomitable spirit of the differently abled riders is admirable and through this bike expedition Habitat for Humanity will highlight the need for affordable housing in India and make decent housing a matter of conscience and action,” said Eric Christopher, chief operating officer, Habitat for Humanity India. “We wish the riders Godspeed.”
The itinerary covers major cities in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Jammu, Kashmir, Delhi and Chandigarh.
The riders passed through Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat, on the second day.
Vinod Rawat told The Times of India newspaper: “It has been a challenging ride. We have different motorcycles and have to coordinate our riding speeds. We had a tyre puncture which delayed us a bit from the scheduled timings. However, all the exhaustion is gone with the kind of warm welcome we have received here at Ahmedabad. It is amazing.”
In Ahmedabad, local artist Pravin Mishra created a painting on the spot depicting a girl in Leh with a house in the background which signifies her dream for a better life. The painting will be auctioned at a starting bid of 30,000 rupees (US$3,850) with additional prints going for 500 rupees each.
The riders reached Leh on 14th August and helped in house construction alongside some 20 soldiers.
The following day, on 15th August, the riders hoisted a flag to celebrate India’s Independence Day before leaving for Khardung La, known as the world’s highest motorcycle pass. They made it to the peak at nearly 5,580 meters (18,300 feet).
Before the group scaled the pass, Rawat told the local Hindustan Times newspaper that reaching the top would be a personal achievement. “But the idea is to dispel the stereotype that differently-abled people are dependent on others. We want to motivate others in similar positions to recognise their strength,” he said. Rawat had to have his left leg amputated after an accident when he was nearly six years old. For the past 15 years, the 37-year-old has been using an artificial limb.