Cycling vacations are a great way to see and really get to know a part of the world and get/keep fit in the process. What if one could help to reverse environmental degradation in the process? That’s what Matthias Resch of Tour de Quisqueya (TDQ) is trying to do with 1- and 2-week greening-Haiti-while-you-cycle tours. TDQ takes on greater importance due to the damage inflicted on Haiti by Hurricane Matthew this week. GreenSportsBlog spoke with Resch about his inspiration for TDQ, what cyclists can expect from the next tour, in February/March 2017 and how they can help post-Matthew Haiti.
Matthias Resch, along with friends Kevin Jamison and Veronica Sarrabayrouse, first visited Haiti in November 2009 as part of a United Nations Association Young Professionals (UNA-YP) mission focused on sustainable agriculture and reforestation.
Within days of the devastating Earthquake of January 12th, 2010, the friends put their development, poverty alleviation, and promotion-of-human rights backgrounds to work by leading a group to Haiti that provided medical and humanitarian relief to over 1,000 people. That led to the formation of Community Development International, or CDi, – an environmental, developmental, and human rights grassroots volunteer organization that encourages grassroots participation while creating lasting bonds with volunteers and beneficiaries alike.
One of CDi’s first initiatives was Miles of Trees, a program that, starting in 2011, has raised funds for tree planting projects in Haiti through multi and single-day bike rides as well as 5k and marathon runs, primarily in the New York-New Jersey area. According to Resch, the idea was to “get people to contribute $1 per mile for friends riding in the events. It costs roughly $1 to plant a tree so the math was quite simple.”
In 2015 it was a natural next step for Resch to bring cyclists down to Haiti, specifically to Léogâne, an area about 20 miles west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city, to assess feasibility and to explore country-wide route options for a larger, in-country event. The group would ride and make stops to plant trees. And so Tour de Quisqueya (TDQ) was born in collaboration with the Léogâne Cycling Club —Quisqueya is the native name for the island of Hispaniola on which both Haiti and the Dominican Republic sit. This happens to be the second, Léogâne-focused story to run in GSB: Click here to read our September, 2015 interview with Jolinda Hackett, Executive Director of GOALS Haiti, a non-profit that uses soccer as a tool for development and, as it turns out, to deal with climate change.
For Resch, it was important that TDQ be a cycling tour/adventure vacation/humanitarian mission rather than a race: “Our goal is to expose folks to the Haitian people, the culture, to give them a great cycling experience that changes the way we think about look at Haiti and to get them involved in social projects on the ground. We also support local cyclists, giving them a fully subsidized opportunity to explore and learn about their own country. By tapping into their cycling passion we can animate them to become active agents of change on their communities.”
TDQ’s first group took off last January with 30 people—guests, staff, doctors, etc. The group not only rode 260 miles on road bikes over seven riding days (ten day total trip), they also planted 4,000 trees funded by CDi’s Miles of Trees program. Since its inception, this program has planted close to 10,000 trees in various parts of Haiti and has established its own tree nursery in Léogâne run by a young Haitian agronomist who had been apprenticing on CDi’s Virginia=-based sister farm “New Earth Farm” in 2014.
“Miles of Trees” Tree Planting Festival (“Festival Plante Pye Bwa”) on the sixth anniversary of the Earthquake, January 10, 2016. (Photo credit: Roselaure Charles, Sunset Film Production, Haiti)
The 2017 version offers cyclists/environmentalists with both 1- and 2-week options with both trips starting on February 18 (the two week option ends March 6). The watchword this year, says Resch, is MORE: more international and local cyclists, more miles ridden, more trees planted, more options, including a spectacular hike through the Pic La Selle Mountains, and more bicycles donated to the Tour’s various local social mission partners.
Matthias Resch of Tour de Quisqueya, on the ride from Port Salut to Les Cayes, Haiti, during the initial tour, January 8, 2016. (Photo credit: Roselaure Charles, Sunset Film Production, Haiti)
If you are interested in joining the 2017 version of the Tour de Quisqueya as a cyclist or tourist, registration is open until the end of November. Click here to find out about pricing and to register.
Also, in the direct aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, CDi appreciates any donations made online to help rebuild, restore and revive its sustainable, educational farm “Nouvo Tè” in hard hit Les Cayes—it suffered significant damage. If interested, please click here to help.
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