16 Aug 2018

This article was written by Bay of Plenty Times journalist Zoe Hunter and was featured in print and online at

Helen and Paul van der Werff cycled 450km through Sri Lanka with every wheel spin raising funds for new bikes to give to Merivale School pupils.

The Pāpāmoa couple raised enough funds to buy 11 bikes for the Decile 1 primary school as part of the Variety Cycle Challenge to Sri Lanka.

The van der Werffs embarked on the expedition earlier this year to raise funds for Variety's Bikes for Kids programme which provided bikes and helmets to deserving Kiwi children.

Helen said about seven cyclists rode alongside television journalist Mike McRoberts through Sri Lanka.

A highlight was cycling 56km downhill through the tea plantation in the highlands. "It was the best ride of my life," she said.

There were a few hair-raising moments trying to dodge bikes, cars, buses and people all sharing the same road, but Helen said donating the bikes made the daily 50km bike rides all worth it.

"There does not seem to be many road rules," Helen said. "But when you cycle all those kilometres it does not seem real, but now it does."

She said she donated the Avanti rally bikes to Merivale School because "we just liked the school".

Run in conjunction with World Expeditions, the trip cost included a $500 donation to the Bikes for Kids programme, but Paul and Helen raised extra money in the lead up to the expedition.

Every $200 the couple raised bought one bike and a helmet for a child.

Merivale School principal Tom Paekau said the bikes were donated to 11 Year 2 to Year 6 pupils.

"It is a huge boost for our kids because some of them have never owned their own bike," he said.

"They have now got a valuable possession of their own so they will have to learn responsibility of taking care of their bikes and themselves."

Variety's chief executive officer Lorraine Taylor said each bike presented gave one Kiwi kid the chance to learn a new skill, gain independence and enjoy being outdoors.

"It really is a luxury we aim to see more Kiwi kids enjoy," she said.


Variety's next fundraising trip with World Expeditions is the 11-day Variety Food Lover's Camino Challenge which invites travellers to take on the Camino in Spain.

Departing from Bilbao, Spain, on October 30, the trip will be hosted by Sir Graham and Lady Raewyn Henry to raise money for Variety's Have a Go Scholarship programme.

You can read the original article, here