Report: fourth leg of the Bristol2Beijing bike ride
By BEARR trustee Jane Ebel
We have come to the end of the road (for now!) for BEARR’s partnership with Luke Grenfell-Shaw, as he moves into the fifth and final leg of his intrepid journey. Luke, himself a “CanLiver” (someone living with cancer: facing the challenges and uncertainties of cancer on a daily basis, yet acknowledging that we all can live with cancer – richly and fully) has been travelling 30,000km from Bristol to Beijing by tandem, fundraising for different charities supporting young people with cancer. Here, trustee Jane Ebel reflects on the six months Luke spent travelling through Central Asia fundraising for BEARR and visiting some of our projects along the way.
The BEARR Trust’s fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable journey alongside Luke Grenfell-Shaw, had unexpected beginnings. From a serendipitous meeting one evening in a bus shelter in Cornwall (when a disembodied voice asked for assistance to remove a tic behind his knee) the trustees at BEARR got involved with Luke’s unbelievably ambitious plan to cycle on a tandem from his home town of Bristol, to Beijing, visiting schools, universities, hospitals and relevant local NGOs along the way. Covid-19 notwithstanding, Luke has now completed the fourth leg of this epic voyage, culminating in Islamabad. The BEARR Trust was fortunate enough to be part of the fundraising campaign for this section of the ride and the delighted recipients of over £2,500, which will go towards supporting a relevant project in the region.
The BEARR team enjoyed assisting and supporting Luke at various stages of his journey, deploying their local knowledge in the regions through which he was passing: a two week programme in Moldova saw Luke meeting up with many of BEARR’s local and international partners, participating in a role playing exercise with one of BEARR’s grantees – the Playback Theatre; passing through Transnistria and visiting another BEARR project with the NGO Zhenskiye Initiativii (Women’s Initiatives) in Tiraspol, which helps to protect women and girls from violence, before venturing on into Ukraine. From there he teamed up with our colleagues at ChildAid for leg 3 of the journey, raising a cool £9000 for their work with disadvantaged children in Moldova and Ukraine. Next, Luke cycled through Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, took a ferry to Kazakhstan and arrived in Bukhara for the start of the fourth leg.
Leg 4 comprised the crossing of four Central Asian countries (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan), including some of the highest-altitude parts of Pakistan, which by late October were covered in a gentle blanket of snow. Along the expedition route in Central Asia, Luke was able to make many connections facilitated by The BEARR Trust, including visiting two “training cafes” set up by the Psychoanalytic Association in Almaty, Kazakhstan, which are run by staff and volunteers with learning disabilities.
Although complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic, Bristol2Beijing succeeded in spreading its CanLive message with many new audiences, both in-person and virtually. Continually taking care to be as safe as possible, Luke, carried on and even included 110 joiners on the tandem, experiencing the thrill of living life to the full while making vivid, cross-cultural connections. The grand total for the expedition is now 16,714 kilometres cycled, with 214 tandem joiners across 28 countries!
Near the tail end of this leg, Luke and his tandem made an additional short hop from Tajikistan to Pakistan, via England for some much needed rest after more than a year on the road since the August, 2020.
Of note during this leg, the first “B2B Challenge” engaged more than 100 people across the globe in physical activities of their own design (read the recap and superlatives). Representatives from the BEARR Trust and the four charities that have partnered with Bristol2Beijing partners for the duration of the expedition (Young Lives vs. Cancer, Teenage Cancer Trust, Trekstock, 5k Your Way–Move Against Cancer) also joined Luke in England in late September for a parkrun and a chance to connect whilst he was in the UK.
The grand total raised for charity since Luke announced the expedition just over two years ago now tops £107,000 from 2,000 individual donors (an additional 301 during Leg 4 alone).
“Congratulations to Luke on completing the fourth leg of his journey,” said Nicola Ramsden, chairman of The BEARR Trust, “and for taking us along with him as his charity partner! We’re proud to have become part of the Bristol2Beijing community, and we’d like to thank everyone for their generosity in supporting The BEARR Trust as well as Luke’s other charities.
When Luke visited our projects in Moldova and Kazakhstan we could see how quickly he established a rapport with the people there. I think they would have happily kept him with them for longer!”
“The BEARR team has been such a brilliant partner for the Central Asia segment of the expedition,” said Luke. “Through them, I have made so many meaningful connections — from visits with women’s rights initiatives in Transnistria to visits with mental health support programmes in Kazakhstan. BEARR has also facilitated several opportunities to share my story and what Bristol2Beijing and CanLive is all about”.
We wish Luke well on the final leg of his inspiring journey, and can’t wait to see what he does next!
You can find videos, images and further information about the movement and the expedition at https://bristol2beijing.org/
You can find out more about Luke at https://lukegrenfellshaw.com/
For questions and media requests:
Bristol2Beijing is a global tandem cycling expedition aiming to redefine what is possible with a cancer diagnosis. The expedition, which invites people to participate, especially CanLivers (people living with cancer) and individuals from the countries through which Luke is riding, is supporting four UK-based charities throughout the journey (Young LIves vs. Cancer, Teenage Cancer Trust, Trekstock, and 5k Your Way–Move Against Cancer) and one regional partner charity for each leg of the journey beyond the UK (Leg 5: while in Pakistan, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre; and while in India, CanKids KidsCan). By cycling across the world and including other CanLivers in the adventure, Bristol2Beijing is the central expression of the CanLive movement, founded by Luke Grenfell-Shaw in 2019 at the age of 25. CanLive is the belief that, even with the uncertainties that a cancer diagnosis brings, we can live with cancer, and do so richly and fully if we proactively create opportunities to make the most of today and improve our chances of living well tomorrow. Luke and his tandem, named Chris in memory of his late brother John Christopher Grenfell-Shaw, are putting CanLive into action by exploring the world, uncovering stories of positivity, resilience, and triumph in the face of adversity, and inviting the world to participate in the journey through the Bristol2Beijing expedition and the Bristol2Beijing podcast.
For more information visit: bristol2beijing.org