Some 35 cyclists from Qatar will begin biking through five countries in Europe this Sunday to help raise more than $1 million to build a girl’s school in Gaza.
The initiative, part of Global Biking Initiative (GBI) Europe, involves cycling for one week, beginning in Venice, Italy and ending in Stuttgart, Germany, after passing through Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
This year, some 400 cyclists from around 20 countries will take up the challenge for a charity cause of their choice, while being backed by sponsors.
The Qatar-based group will cycle a distance of about 800km and up to a height of around 7,000m in the Alps, according to statement issued by Qatar Charity (QC), which is collaborating with the cyclists.
They are being supported by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Qatar Airways, Vodafone, Qatar Gas, Amwaj, Qatar Financial Center Regulatory Authority and the Aspire Zone.
Local groups said they are also hoping to raise awareness of healthy initiatives in Qatar through the biking challenge.
Nasser Mohamed al-Yafei, executive director for local development at QC, previously said that the initiative aims to support “charity work and sports simultaneously, particularly within Qatari society, where there is a significant need to spread sports consciousness.”
Qatar’s residents have long struggled with obesity due to unhealthy eating habits and an inactive lifestyle.
Among those preparing for the trip is 36-year-old AbdulAziz Al Kuwari, an orthopedic surgeon at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) who is the captain and co-founder of Qatar Cyclists.
Speaking to Doha News, the Qatari said:
”We are proud to be participating in this charity event and to represent our country Qatar.”
He added that the cyclists’ ages range from 25 to 57 years old, including three who are over 50 years old.
Al Kuwari said that although his profession is demanding and requires long working hours, he insisted on finding time to train for the GBI and has been cycling about six to eight hours a week since January.
Though he has only been cycling for three years, Al Kuwari said he loves trying new things.
He added that sometimes he worries that he “won’t be able to complete the challenge, but by God’s will I will do it.”
The father of three said his wife was very supportive and proud of his participation in GBI, “as I had to sacrifice a lot of my time with the family to be able to take part in it.”
Speaking to Doha News, Hamed Alaa Eldin, Qatar Charity’s director of community and partnership, said that the participants are paying part of their expenses from their own pockets.
So far, the cyclists have managed to raise QR500,000 ($137,347). They aim to obtain the full amount of QR5.38 million ($1,477,908) to build the school within three year’s time, according to a QC statement.
The girl’s high school will be built in the Al Shaimaa area, north of Gaza, and will cater to 1,920 students who live in Beit Lahia areas and the Bedouin village in Gaza, QC said.
There have been many charity events in Qatar in recent years to raise money for the besieged Gaza Strip, including an initiative by 12 young Qataris to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro last year to raise money for the territory’s education system.
Gaza has been the target of several Israeli bombing campaigns since Hamas wrested power from rival faction Fatah in 2007.
During the most recent offensive last summer, more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed and more than 96,000 homes were damaged, according to Al Jazeera. And the education system also suffered millions of dollars worth of setbacks.
Al Kuwari said he supported raising money for education in Gaza because “Gaza has a special place in our hearts…and schools in Gaza are not only used for education, but they are also used as shelters and hospitals.”
Those interested in contributing to the cause can donate through Qatar Charity’s website page, or send a text message with the word “Cycling” or “Gaza” to 92632 to donate QR50 and to 92642 to donate QR100. QC can also be reached by phone at 44667711.