Thaala Loper and her husband Jesse recently participated in a 448 mile bike ride across Oklahoma from June 7 – 14th in memory of Thaala’s late cousin who was an AIDS orphan in Botswana. As part of the event, she asked her family and friends to sponsor their ride by making donations to SOS Children’s Villages in Botswana. This is an account of their journey, sent to us from Thaala. We are incredibly honored, enormously impressed, and tremendously grateful of her efforts on behalf of SOS Children’s Villages!
I arrived in the United States in 2001 with an overwhelming sense of urgency about a problem that seemed completely insurmountable. At the time, my home country of Botswana had the highest AIDS prevalence in the world but very few people could afford access to antiretroviral treatment. In spite of integrated education and prevention programs, it seemed like we were waging a losing war against an invisible enemy.
Seven years later, we have come along way. Treatment is freely available and the population is largely well informed, but the pandemic has left a host of orphans in its wake. Being so far away, it often feels like there is no way to make a difference. But when my husband signed us up for the Oklahoma Freewheel, an annual bike ride across his home state of Oklahoma, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. We decided to use the ride to fundraise for the amazing work that SOS does to provide loving homes and a positive future for innumerable AIDS orphans in Botswana.
The ride took place over 7 days during the second week of June. Most days brought beautiful weather and were rewarded with barbeque and home made ice-cream. But on our second day riding from Sulphur to Seminole, it began to storm at around our 7th mile out of a 65 mile day. We were cold, wet and tired and it was incredibly difficult to keep going against the pelting rain and gusting wind.
During the storm, the thought of the children and the mission of SOS inspired us to press on and not to slump into the sag truck. We arrived in Seminole to find the camping grounds almost 2 feet under water, but thankfully we found shelter with Jesse’s grandparent’s who lived in a town nearby. This was gracious reminder of the importance of family and shelter which SOS provides to so many children who have lost both.
Overall, we rode almost 450 miles in 7 days. It was thrilling just to have made it to the end. But the real reward was knowing that our journey would make a small difference in the lives of a few children at SOS Villages in Botswana.