Eugene Park ’99 never imagined having any interest in biking or studying abroad when he was an NC State undergraduate student in business management. But this past June, Park spent 10 days riding his bike from Kilimanjaro to the Indian Ocean along ancient slave-trade routes to raise money for orphaned children in Africa.
Park was part of a 20-person team participating in RideTZ, a 400-mile bike ride that takes place every two years in Tanzania, East Africa, to raise money for The Foundation for Tomorrow (TFFT), a non-profit organization which provides scholarships and support for orphaned children. The trip is an extension of TFFT and was launched in July 2010.
Meghann Gunderman, the founder and executive director of TFFT, is a friend of Park’s and was one of the main reasons he got involved.
“After hearing about Meghann and her fiancee’s experiences and stories from their recent trip to Africa, I was inspired,” Park says. “It sparked me to get involved and do something that would make a difference.”
Park spent more than a year preparing for the trip and raising a minimum of $3,000 to be used for scholarships for the children. He also began training for the physical challenges of the philanthropy event. He picked up mountain bike last summer and took spin classes to help with his endurance.
“I knew everything would come naturally and I would have the ability to adapt to new surroundings, situations and environments,” Park says. “I just had to prepare myself mentally for this epic experience.”
After arriving to Tanzania in June, the adventure continued to be a growing experience. In order to complete the 400-mile trip in 10 days, Park and his team biked approximately 40 miles a day.
“For ten days we woke up at 5 a.m. and were biking by 7 a.m.,” Park says. “Some days were easier than others, depending on the weather and the terrain.”
Along the way, the group spent time visiting and playing with children in the orphanages, meeting local people in the villages, learning Swahili, climbing the Usambara Mountains and swimming in the Indian Ocean on the last day.
“I learned that getting out of your comfort zone and doing something to make a difference in other people’s lives is not only humbling but very rewarding,” Park says. “I gave my blood, sweat and tears for The Foundation for Tomorrow, RideTZ and the kids.”