11 March 2009
VU teacher pedals through Thailand for tsunami orphans
A Victoria University teacher has completed a 760-kilometre fundraising bike ride through Thailand, helping to raise $145,000 for Thai children left orphaned by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Steph Ellis of Northcote was one of 19 riders to tackle the ten-day bike trip last month, riding from Bangkok south to Khao Lak, a former resort area that was hard hit by the tragedy.
The event was organised by Hands Across the Water, an aid organisation co-founded by Australian police forensic scientist Peter Baines shortly after the disaster. He had been sent to help coordinate relief efforts, but that assignment changed him forever.
Steph was encouraged to sign up for the bike ride after hearing Mr Baines - who now devotes all his time to the organisation - speak at a conference.
"I thought it would be an amazing experience with amazing people, and above else, it's one for the kids," she said.
Steph, who is manager of VU English, at the University's City Flinders Campus, joined other fundraisers from around the world who were similarly inspired. They included a Singapore banker, an English artist, and a Queensland government official.
"We became an incredibly tight group and had a real sense of common purpose to raise money and awareness," she said.
During her time in Thailand, Steph also looked at possible partnerships to help develop the English language skills of the orphans, their teachers, and the volunteers at two orphanages in Khao Lak.
Steph said the highlight of her trip was seeing the smiling faces of the children as the group rode into the orphanage on the final day.
"Some of the kids even rode the final kilometre with us. We were then met by the local community, a marching band, and of course, the beautiful children."
Steph Ellis is available for interview. Ph: (03) 9919 1390; mobile 0418 391 073
Photos of Steph on the ride are available on request
Ann Marie Angebrandt, Marketing & Communications Department, Victoria University
Ph: (03) 9919 5487; mobile 0403 556 001.