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Across the country in two and half years by bike

 tanasoschildrens.jpg

    In a scheme that could be considered half brilliance, and half insanity, a woman is meandering her way across Canada over the next couple of years on a recumbent bike.

    Tana Silverland came through the valley early this week on a cross Canada trek, and to say the least, she is taking the scenic route. She started last June from Whitehorse and has already travelled 4,100 kilometres. So far, she is only part way through Alberta on her trek to Newfoundland.
    “It is going to take two and a half years,” Silverland told The Mail. “As one of my previous host described it, ‘taking the word circuitous to a whole new level.’”
    While speed isn’t her primary concern, awareness is.
    “The point of my whole journey is because the passion that I have for SOS Children’s Villages, the work they do, and wanting to do the best I could in terms of raising their profile and getting them more support,” said Silverland. “The whole point of the journey is to get to as many places as I possibly can to speak to as many people as I possibly can.  Essentially the longer it takes to get to Newfoundland, the more successful I have been.”
 Going into the journey she had no interst in long distance cycling, let alone cycling across the second largest country in the world, It was the charity that interested her.
    SOS Children’s Villages re: an international charity formed in the post war years in Austria. The charity builds purpose-built mini villages with family homes on a site together. Rather than an orphan stay in a foster home, they are placed together in a home with a “SOS Parent,” and live as a family.
    “They grow up as a family all on the same footing,” she said. “Their (SOS mother or father’s) number one task is basically to love the kids. Give them the love and respect that every kid should get that is so important for a child to have growing up.”
    Today there are SOS Children’s Villages in more than 130 countries including one in the Vancouver area.  There are over 500 villages in all, serving 80,000 children.
    “I was very blessed to have two loving parents who were there throughout my childhood.  As I got older I have gotten to learn more and more just what an incredible difference that makes,” she said.
    Silverland is a recent newcomer to Canada, and she stumbled upon the charity quite casually. In the UK, the SOS Children’s Village office was around the corner from where she worked. She started to volunteer in small ways, and grew to appreciate the charity more.
    “I saw the dedication of the staff and the whole mindset and the direction they come at the issue of orphan care. To me, they just get it all right,” she said.
    While often trips like Silverland’s have a monetary goal, she has deliberately not set one, instead she wants to motivate people to take the time to learn about the charity. To that end, she is arranging meetings in communities as she passes through. This week she met with the Drumheller Rotary Club and a high school quilting club.
    “I didn’t want the journey to become about me and the money, and have people throw $5 as I passed and then 24 hours later they can’t even remember the name of the charity. Because I feel so strongly the charity is doing such wonderful work, and if anybody out of curiosity spends 30 seconds on the website, their work absolutely speaks for itself,” she said.
    Silverland is completing the trek on her own, without a support team. Also, not to take away from the charity, she is doing without financial backing from the organization.  She has a contingency fund, but for the most part the kindness of strangers is fuelling the trip.
    While she concurred the mountains of BC, Alberta may be one of the provinces she spends the most time in on her meandering path. The one unexpected experience she had coming into the valley is when she descended Highway 56 into Rosedale, she hit her top speed of the trip. She expects to make it to Southern Ontario before the worst of winter hits. She plans to arrive in Newfoundland in the fall 2012.
    For more information go to www.soschildrensvillage.ca or call 1-800-767-5111. To follow Silverlands’s journey go to www.tanasilverland.wordpress.com