June 23, 2010

Iranian Adventurer on a Quest to Help Malagasy Children

A year ago, Reza Pakravan went on a three-week trip to Madagascar as part of a volunteer campaign with the charity group Afazady. What he experienced during his trip would change him forever.
“Living in a tent, eating rice and beans for every meal, using a bucket shower and working a demanding construction job with primitive tools would have been enough to put most people off from repeating the experience.” But for Pakravan, this experience was a calling to give back.
Realizing the difficulty of everyday life for people on the island, Pakravan decided to raise money to build two new schools in Madagascar. And so, along with friend Marco Gustapane, he launched “the Jellybabies on a bike campaign”—a 10-day 1,000 km cycling expedition across the Himalayas. The name originated when he offered children in Agnena village “Jellybabies” pastilles and was consequently referred to as “Jellybabies” by the entire village.
The schools that Pakravan visited in his time in Madagascar were typically overcrowded, and children were forced to walk at least 12 miles through crocodile-infested rivers to get there. Frequent floods often make these rivers impassable.

The 35-year-old credit risk analyst managed to raise a considerable amount of money online for the school, but not enough to build the two schools he had promised. So in April Pakravan and his friend Marco Gustapane embarked on their cycling expedition to raise the remainder.
Gustapane’s flight from England was stalled due to volcanic ash from Iceland, forcing Pakravan to cycle the first week alone. In this portion of his trip, a Maoist protest brought the entire country of Nepal to a standstill.
However, these protests actually worked in Pakravan’s favor by emptying Nepal’s normally busy roads.
Four days in, his food and water supply had greatly diminished. Pale, hungry, and with his ration packs all but finished, Pakravan found himself in a remote part of Nepal. Eventually he came across a few peasants eating on the side of the road. “As soon as they saw my state they invited me to eat with them and offered me water,” Pakravand said. “I was saved by such lovely people.”
With that, his urge to quit vanished. Motivated to soldier on, the duo finished the trip and raised an addition $12,000.
In a country with desperate need for clean water, roads, electricity and health care, Pakravan’s efforts have provided a glimmer of hope for many in an often forgotten part of the world. Enough money has now been raised to finish one school and start on the second.  When asked if Pakravan was planning on raising more money to help fight desperate conditions in Madagascar, he replied, “currently I am planning a mega-expedition with aiming of raising $450,000.”
Pakravan and the Afazady foundation are currently just over $10,000 short having enough to finish the second school. “Iranians have been so generous in helping me achieving my goal,” he says. He hopes that Iranians everywhere will continue to show their humanitarian spirit by aiding in such projects.

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