Citizen’s Name: Brett Seychell
Cause/Project: Social Cycles
Tagline: Life Changing Adventures
Location: Cambodia – Vietnam – Iran – Samoa – Laos – Melbourne
What is Social Cycles all about?
Social Cycles host small group cycle adventures for travellers with a social conscience. We engage with local experts (NGOs) to learn about social issues, challenges and strategies so that we can gain the knowledge to make a positive difference. We will test people’s physical boundaries, challenge perceptions of charity and completely open minds.
Our mission is to educate our riders about in depth cultural issues regarding poverty in developing countries through group cycling adventures. To enable the freedom of financial dispersion with firsthand understanding of NGO efficiency and sustainability, and to eyewitness differences made to beneficiaries involved.
How long have you been operating?
We officially started in 2015 with the set up and planning. Our very first guided tour was in October 2015. So far we have conducted 11 tours across four countries.
Where did the idea start?
I’m Melbourne born and bred, but spent most of my adult life in London. My professional background was in hospitality management, but there came a time in my life where the music just got too loud (read- I got too old!). Call it an early mid-life crisis, but at the age of 35, I thought attempting to ride a bicycle from London back home to Melbourne was the right thing to do. And my life has changed ever since.
Across the epic journey of over 2 years, 28,000+ km’s and 28 countries, I was in the fortunate position to have the autonomy of financial dispersion via a small charity. I was responsible for finding a good home to $12,500 across various countries, projects and NGOs along the great ride home. Packed with rose coloured glasses and a bag full of good intentions, I soon learnt that deciding how to donate the money responsibly was much harder than any hill or mountain I had needed to climb. But through simply meeting amazing people, asking questions first and learning, I was confident in donating to 13 different projects across six countries in NGO programs that were sustainable, income generating and community based.
In hindsight, despite leaving a trail of ‘good stuff’ across the world, I have no doubt that I was the biggest benefactor. My reward was the feeling of responsible giving, to local communities and supporting programs of empowerment. I felt like I had made a difference, a difference I had discovered through asking questions and learning first. It wasn’t easy, but it sure was rewarding. It completely changed travel for me. It’s no longer enough to just see a monument and a museum and think you know the city. It’s all about asking local experts about current day issues. It’s the best way to learn about the impact of recent history, and arguably more importantly, what the near future looks like.
Then I thought, everybody should be able to travel like this. So, I created Social Cycles.
How do TOWNHALL Citizens or visitors get involved?
The best way to get involved is to join us on a trip! The difference between Social Cycles adventures and a lot of other ‘charity rides’ is that we aim to ensure that the benefit of the ride is balanced between all parties. I mean that the beneficiaries of our rides aren’t just the local community through a supported project, it is very much the riders themselves and the journey they take through learning from a variety of local NGOs. Our aim is to educate riders in regards to the complexities of local culture and the world of charity. We have a very strict child protection policy in that we do not get involved in any short term volunteering. We are there to learn from locals first, then establish, if possible, a network of support.
Do you have any success stories?
Yes, many! As our beneficiaries lie in two camps, we measure success in two ways.
Of the tours we have done so far, many riders have come back and made a difference in their day to day lives. One woman has sourced a long term volunteer opportunity in Cambodia that directly matches her skill set, others have come home to study community development courses with a view to a career change.
In addition, every tour supports a project, based on the learning of the riders. As a result, we have funded some tangible projects such as water installations and some have been ‘general use’ funds for the NGOs to use as they best see fit. ‘General Use’ donations only ever happen when the group have met and learnt about the wonderful work carried out by the people directly involved.
Do you have a project on TOWNHALL or an important event or mission coming up?
We have tours scheduled throughout the year. Generally speaking, we are in Cambodia & Vietnam from November to February, Iran in April & September, Samoa in May & August & Cambodia again in June/July.
Are you raising funds for anything specific?
Any interesting fact you can share?
Approximately 80% of children living in orphanages have either one or more living parent. Some orphanages have turned into a business model where children are the commodity and well meaning tourists are the source of revenue.
What’s the overall vision for Social Cycles?
To provide an opportunity for travellers to dig a little deeper, introduce them to local heroes and give travellers the opportunity to ask questions and learn first hand from a variety of local experts.