This week I am excited to introduce you to Catherine Taouk, a wonderful business consultant and innovator, expert brand and marketing manager, author, speaker, MY business coach and fellow dream crazy friend!
Catherine has written a heartfelt guest blog post for us today, describing her experience of riding a bike through Thailand helping to raise $300,000 for the Hands Across the Water Charity. And the connection she made with a 12 year old orphan boy called Gan.
Back in 2014, I heard Sebastian Terry speak at an event about his ongoing bucket list, travelling the world and locally ticking off bucket list items, living more fully and living every day as if it was his last.
Although he got on stage with no shoes on, I was inspired. I grabbed a copy of his book 100 Things and read it at lightning speed. At the end of the book he asks you to go ahead and start to write your list.
So that I did and number #3 was to work at an orphanage.
I attended the next Business Blueprint conference and towards the end of the sessions Dale who heads up the program announced that in February 2015 they would be heading to an orphanage and who would like to go along for the ride.
Instantly I raised my hand and then he said we are going to be riding 500km’s across Thailand from Bangkok to Khao Lak. My life, my babies and everything in between flashed before me thinking it was crazy but I kept my hand up. I was intent to live my life FULL of adventure and fun and so I listened intently to some of the details that followed.
That day I clearly missed some of the details relayed. Dale had not mentioned the heat of February in Thailand, the not so welcoming dogs of Thailand, the rolling mountains, the gusty head winds, that the night lights go out at 6pm, that eating mosquitos late at night is not good for your health, pot holes the size of the road, gruelling traffic jams, knicks, grazes and everything in between.
What he DID mention was that the ride was supporting the Hands Across the Water charity set up by Australian Peter Baines, an ex-Forensic Police Officer and the orphanage that he had set up alongside some local women in Khao Lak that had been devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Who would ever forget that day? It gives me goose bumps just thinking of it.
I don’t think I had even heard of a tsunami back then and it was so hard to believe the scale of the devastation. Thousands of people killed and millions of lives changed forever. And I certainly never thought back then 10 years ago, that I would be riding in Thailand raising over $300 000 alongside 45 other Business Blueprinters.
So I won’t bore you with the crazy schedule of the ride over the 5 days. What I will share with you is the last day, which certainly was the most memorable and will be the thing that gets me back to Thailand for years to come.
The last day was a mere 57 kilometres, up some hills, down a few more until we would reach the temple where Peter Baines was first assigned to the devastating task he had after the tsunami to identify 3000 bodies. It was a solemn experience riding in to this point and knowing that we were only 3 kilometres away from the kids at the orphanage. We were police escorted through the town and about 1 kilometre out, you could hear the kids cheering.
We were crying, they were smiling.
All so happy to be united. They pulled us from our bikes and held our hands, taking us through to where the big afternoon celebration and welcome would take place.
At the beginning of the week, we were each assigned a small card of a child at the orphanage and a little story about them. The young boy who I was connected to was named Gan. A 12 year old boy who had lost his father and brother in the tsunami, he barely spoke English but we had an incredible bond between each other with our eyes, hearts and hand movements.
We shared a laugh and some tears and we boarded a bus back to the hotel.
That night, we hosted a massive finale night dinner with all of the 104 children from the orphanage. It was so amazing to see them all roll in with their eyes wide open in awe of the spectacular night ahead. We ate, we danced, we ate some more. An incredible night never to be forgotten.
I spent the next few days between immersing myself in some internal work and hanging out at the orphanage, building a new cement road and connecting with these beautiful children.
On the last day, Gan was nowhere to be found. Like a love struck teenager I was aching to see Gan before I left but he was out and about for the day. I left him a note. The note was a request. When he finishes school in six years time, the following February I want him to ride with me. I thought how am I going to ever hear from him with an answer?
That night as I lay meditating at my hotel, reflecting on my day the concierge called. There were some children from the orphanage here to see me. Shock and delighted I gathered my meditative soul and headed to reception and there was my little friend Gan, who through translation, agreed to ride with me.
I can’t wait. Did I just say that? Not so excited about the training regime, the blood, sweat and tears but all forgotten through that one connection.
And knowing that it can be just one connection that will change your life forever.
It’s amazing what we can do when we say yes to life and focus on our hearts and our souls, isn’t it?