A young Oregonian college student is crisscrossing the continent on a bicycle to raise money for education in Cambodia.
When Quincy Briscoe was a freshman in high school, his father took him to Cambodia for a month to live in small rural village called Pongro, near the famed temples of Angkor Wat.
It wasn’t the Thailand beach vacation the Ashland, Oregon teen had been hoping for. But it ended up being a life changing one.
Five years later, Briscoe is cycling 4000 miles from Alaska to Mexico to raise funds for Project Enlighten, a small non-profit devoted to improving access to education in Cambodia.
“I was 14. I had an iPhone. the world was at my fingertips,” Briscoe said over the phone while he rode his bike down the Olympic Peninsula on Thursday. “These kids [in the village] would do anything just to spend some time with me and learn some English.”
Hung (right) was able to start making the daily journey to the nearest school, using the bike purchased by Briscoe and his father. (Photo by Christopher Briscoe)
There was no school near enough that the children in the village could it reach on foot. So one day Briscoe convinced his father to spend $100 on a cheap folding bicycle for a 9-year-old friend named Hung.
“That simple act of giving him a bike changed his life, possibly forever. To get an education, help his village and his family.” Briscoe said “A lightbulb went off for me about the ripple effect of one act.”
Now a student at Santa Barbra City College, Briscoe has kept that spirit of service alive. Last year he rode across the country, from St. Augustine, Florida to San Diego, and raised $7000 for Project Enlighten.
This year he’s riding with a friend, Montana State University student Charlie Slattery, and hoping to raise at least $20,000. The riders are on a “college budget,” eating Top Ramen and camping on the side of the road most nights, so all the money can they raise can go toward the charity.
Briscoe explains that the funds, which make up sizeable portion of the non-profit’s roughly $40,000 annual budget, are allocated based on requests from Pongo Village leader Sim Sao.
Bicycling 70 miles a day while towing a trailer of gear and supplies isn’t always easy.
Quincy Briscoe plays with Cambodian children during his stay in Pongro Village in 2008. (Photo by Christopher Briscoe)
“Your morale can switch on a dime depending on the weather and your headwind,” Briscoe said over the phone this morning, just as it started to rain on the road outside Sequim.
“Your mood switches from asking ‘why did I sign up for this’ to ‘Gosh, I want to keep going all the way down to Buenos Aires.’”
Briscoe and Slattery are staying on the Peninsula, so they won’t be passing directly through Seattle, but they’re planning to camp near Olympia tonight.
As for next summer, Briscoe says he’s not sure if he’ll do another bike ride. But he will be trying to raise more money for Project Enlighten.
“I might hike the Pacific Crest Trail, or sail across the ocean,” he said. “The world is my oyster.”