By Sam Alexander
Standing shin deep in a Cambodian rice paddy, Manly Cricketer Javed Badyari had no idea that he would soon be 2,000 kilometres from home, battling an artic vortex on a bicycle.
The twenty-one year old last week completed a gruelling twenty-day ride stretching from Sydney to Adelaide via Melbourne. The aim is to raise $10,000 in sponsorship for ten Cambodian girls and provide them with a sustainable, educated future.
“One in five children die before the age of five in Cambodia, that’s the reality,” Badyari said.
“Kids get malaria and their only treatments are things like herbal soups because there’s no healthcare in the villages and that’s because there’s no education in the villages.
“It keeps people in the dark, and if you think about it, it’s the best way a government can control its people.”
Volunteering for charity ‘Happy Days’, Badyari has visited Cambodia on three occasions, living in villages, working in the rice paddy’s, handing out aid, and has been fundraising ever since.
Javed is an integral part of Manly Crickets playing group, and ‘Happy Days’ is run by Manly Cricket legend Mike Pawley. The club and charity have naturally formed a very successful partnership in raising funds for the ‘Happy Days’ charity.
Firstly, running from Palm Beach to Sydney University, Badyari raised $2,000 for the Cambodian villagers. Now after his 2,000km bike ride, he has raised nearly $7,500, with the $10,000 goal in sight.
Javed’s selfless nature and never ending community work is something that Manly cricket looks to continue with it’s ‘Manly for Manly’ program, as well as other playing members making trips to Cambodia.
“When I was there on my own with no contact from the outer world during that whole five week experience, I definitely came back a different person,” Badyari said.
“That experience of being without the luxuries I took for granted definitely struck a chord in me.
“The contrast is what I noticed most, how poor and how rich it could be within square metres of each other, it was crazy.
“A lot of aid ends up in the wrong hands.”
While the experience in Cambodia was a challenge in itself, Badyari had no idea what was in store on his long journey ahead.
“I was pretty paranoid the first few days cycling because I’d never really done it before,” Badyari said.
“I didn’t give it much planning, I mapped out a rough route two weeks before I left and after I completed my last exam I was off the next day.
“I was also really worried because I didn’t have any traffic experience and it was scary having huge trucks storming past while I only had a tiny lane to ride in.
“I actually ended up loving it because of the huge draft winds from the trucks. I learned to turn a negative into a positive in that respect.”
Badyari said that once he reached day four he was in a routine and found the task quite achievable, until in South Australia, on his final leg of the trip, the well documented ‘Artic Vortex’ hit and he finally found his great challenge.
“The rain was actually fine, what killed me was the wind,” he said.
“Literally at some pints, going down a hill I was almost stopped, it was demoralising. If you can’t even get down a hill how am I going to get 150km forward?
“That’s why it was a mental challenge more than anything, there was a lot of resistance. Your mind is just saying this is stupid, it’s hopeless, I’m not going anywhere, but that’s why it was such a great experience.”
While he battled his own mental challenges along the way, the thought of what this experience is for, and the future that holds for the young Cambodian girls keep his feet on the pedals.
“Every time I had a thought like ‘why the hell am I here’, and there were those times in the hail or whatever, I’d just think of those girls and that their situation is a hundred times worse, and it made my complaining sound like a joke.”
“That was always comforting, but it’s sad to think that was a motivating factor, knowing there were people worse off.”
One of the toughest tasks for Badyari was actually the completion of his challenge, that the road had ended and all the distance he had travelled was only a short flight home.
“That was agonising (the flight). It was bitter sweet, I was loving it, but then I got back in an hour versus 20 days getting there. It sort of belittled the achievement,” he said.
Badyari said he was unsure if the girls knew of his journey, but was thankful for the future they can now achieve.
“Over there, money talks. And these people don’t have money so they don’t have an opportunity.”
“They’re all incredible girls and hopefully they’ll be able to give back to their community in the future.
“They’ve got a real life about them.”
Sponsor Javed at the link: https://chuffed.org/project/breaking-the-cycle-of-poverty