Matt hits road to beat poverty

YOU can cycle for sport, pleasure and even pain, but cycling for poverty is a whole different challenge.

After cycling a gruelling 830km in five days, Matt Downey has returned to Tannum Sands rewarded from his involvement in Break the Cycle 2010.

The local father of three was one of 42 cyclists who gave a new meaning to “pedal power” by participating in the annual event which strives for justice for those trapped in the cycle of poverty throughout the world.

Now in its third year, Break the Cycle is a challenging 1640km cycling event from Brisbane to Canberra, advocating the world's poor.

The cause is two-fold – raising awareness of the eight Millennium Development Goals to halve world poverty by 2015 and to raise funds for the work of Eagles Wings, an organisation working with children in poverty in Zambia, Southern Africa.

Goals which include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality, achieving universal primary education, improving maternal health, promoting gender equality and empowering women and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases to name a few.

“Millions of children in Southern Africa die from preventable diseases each year,” Matt said.

A total of 42 cyclists and 18 support crew are taking part in this year's cycle, which will officially reach Canberra's Parliament House tomorrow.

Split into two teams (Team 20 and Team 27), the cyclists departed Cleveland on September 26 for their life-changing journey which saw them head through the Gold Coast onto a gruelling stretch across the Great Dividing Range from Casino to Tenterfield, New South Wales.

The team then turned and headed south to Tamworth for their first rest day on October 1 before continuing their southerly route through townships such as Gunnedah, Coolah, Mudgee, Bathurst and Goulburn before their final destination of Canberra.

Participating in the event for the first time, Matt said he relished the challenge plus the chance to help others by taking himself out of his comfort zone.

With many early starts – some days rising at 4.30am – and long days on the bike, Matt said the experience was still nothing compared to the suffering thousands of children in Southern Africa are trapped in.

“It was tough but very rewarding,” Matt said.

“The cycle was physically and mentally demanding.

“It's a real team event where you have got to be helping (fellow participants) and thinking of them as well.

“There were people from all walks of life from teenagers to the eldest who was 55.”

Matt said each stage, bar the first day, had its challenging moments.

He said day four, 210km, and day five, 240km, were extremely challenging purely for the sheer length of the rides.

“My favourite was the third stage from Casino to Tenterfield,” Matt said.

“It was only about 130km but there was the constant grind of a 70km climb.

“We went from an altitude of 60m above sea level to about 920m.”

Being the only cyclist outside of the south-east Queensland corner, with the exception of a few from the Darling Downs and Sydney area, Matt is extending the challenge to some local cycling enthusiasts to participate in Break the Cycle 2011.

“You get to meet some great people from all walks of life who share a common goal,” Matt said.

“Each day we had a different Millennium Goal to focus on.

“And you get to see and experience some beautiful countryside at the same time.”

Throughout the cycle the team has been collecting handprints on a banner and signatures on their petition which they will hand to parliament at the end of the cycle.

The team's goal is to halve global poverty by 2015, and the petition is calling on the Australian government to deliver on their promise as part of the nation's role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The cycle has currently raised more $53,200 for the cause.

Anyone wishing to donate to Break the Cycle or take a look at the daily postings can visit www.breakthecycle.org.au

BREAK THE CYCLEMILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger 

Achieve universal primary education 

Promote gender equality and empower women 

Reduce child mortality 

Improve maternal health 

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases 

Ensure environmental sustainability 

Develop a global partnership for development

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Anyone wishing to donate to Break the Cycle, write in support of the cyclists or visit their daily postings can visit www.breakthecycle.org.au



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