“A’tricyclette”: the solidarity adventure of three IÉSEG students in Asia

Three students in the Grande École Program from IÉSEG, Adélaïde WAYMEL, Alice RIBADEAU DUMAS, and Victoire HÜRSTEL, embarked on an ambitious journey (A’tricyclette) in Asia to support the organization “Children of the Mekong.” Over three and a half months, they traveled more than 3,000 km by bicycle with the aim of promoting the sponsorship of underprivileged children. Their adventure, rich in challenges and discoveries, highlighted the importance of humanitarian commitment and human relationships. Let’s discover how they managed to combine sport and solidarity to make a difference.


Can you explain the essence of your project?

Adélaïde WAYMEL: We went to Asia for three and a half months to undertake a journey of more than 3,000 km by bicycle, with the aim of supporting the organization “Children of the Mekong.” This organization seeks sponsors for children from disadvantaged backgrounds living in Southeast Asia. “Children of the Mekong” operates in six countries: Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar.

Our goal, before our trip, was to find sponsors for these children. The particularity of “Children of the Mekong” is that there is not only financial support but also a letter exchange between the godfather and the child. The aim is to have a relationship that goes beyond simple financial support. We took it upon ourselves to deliver the first letter from the sponsors to the newly sponsored children. We visited about twenty children in Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

Alice RIBADEAU DUMAS: We saw firsthand the importance of these letters to the children by talking to families on site. It’s crucial for the children to know that someone in France is thinking of them, helping them, and encouraging them to stay in school. Receiving these letters from their sponsors motivates them not to give up, as their complicated family conditions can sometimes overshadow their desire to succeed in school.

Victoire HÜRSTEL: The idea for this project came about because all three of us knew we wanted to do a humanitarian project. Alice and Adélaïde are from the same cohort, and I am a year below them. Based on our respective motivations, we discovered that this project best matched our expectations. All three of us had done an exchange in South America, and we wanted to go to Asia for this project. One of us wanted a more sporty project, another did not want to stay in centers with only children, and the last wanted to be with children. This project allowed us to combine our three objectives.

How did you prepare for this journey?

Alice RIBADEAU DUMAS: We started thinking about the project in September for a departure in March, as it takes time to organize. We met every Monday evening to work on the project. We first determined what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go, and with which organization. Finding the organization was the first big step. Then, we contacted “Children of the Mekong” and discussed with them what we could organize. They were very flexible, which allowed us to organize our trip in a way that suited us. We also mapped out our itinerary and planned all the necessary equipment.

A tricyclette

How did you finance this project?

Victoire HÜRSTEL: Half of the budget came from our own financial resources that we raised through our student jobs. However, a project like this costing around €18,000, we needed some help to complete the amount. By seeking sponsorships and creating an online fundraiser, we managed to gather the other half of the necessary funds. Some companies also provided us with equipment, which was very useful. We were particularly touched by the generosity of small businesses that provided us with natural cosmetics, sportswear, etc.

What do you take away from this adventure?

Victoire HÜRSTEL: I think it’s difficult to summarize what we feel in a few words, but what stands out the most is that we didn’t expect it to be so physically challenging to maintain the cycling pace every day! And also, above all, the warm welcome we received from the locals! Our guiding principle throughout this adventure was “the 3 little joys.” Each day, we shared our three little joys of the day. Often, it was something very simple, but it helped us get through the tough moments.

Alice RIBADEAU DUMAS: Indeed, we averaged 70 km per day, and it was intense! In total, we cycled 3,156 km. It was an unforgettable, enriching experience on a human and personal level, which will remain forever etched in our memories. We learned a lot about ourselves, each other, and from our interactions with the local populations and the sponsored children.

Adélaïde WAYMEL: Asia being very hilly, it was a real sporting challenge for us! But it was also a powerful experience because it pushed us to surpass ourselves and develop our team spirit even more. Even though we knew each other very well, we didn’t know each other in the context of effort and over the long term. Culturally speaking, it was an incredible experience! We made wonderful encounters by staying with locals. We knocked on doors, and people welcomed us with open arms. It was easier for us to communicate in the Philippines because the inhabitants speak English. In Cambodia, people spoke neither English nor French, it was a completely different type of exchange, gestures and smiles worked too! And each time, we were very well received.

Setting out on such a journey as a trio, is it a strength or a difficulty in the end?

Adélaïde WAYMEL: It’s clearly a strength.

Alice RIBADEAU DUMAS: When we returned, the first thing people asked us was how it went between us. If we got along well, if there were any altercations, etc. We wouldn’t have undertaken this project with other people because we knew it could work between us. However, we didn’t know what to expect. Being together 24/7 sometimes created disagreements, but it also strengthened us a lot. When one of us wasn’t feeling well, the other two were there to help. Overall, it went very well, and we are still very good friends today.

Victoire HÜRSTEL: It’s a challenge, but ultimately, I think I learned more about my social and human capacities than my athletic abilities!

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