Sunday, May 03, 2009

Last Christmas break, I was given the opportunity to volunteer at the Puericultorio (P.P.A.) orphanage in Lima, Peru with Global Volunteers. During my time at P.P.A., I was thoroughly trounced by the orphans on the soccer field and learned, first hand, the challenges of holding the attention of 3rd graders for more than 3 seconds. Perhaps the most humbling aspect of my trip, however, was a realization of the gaping chasm that existed between the vast number of opportunities I had been given that others had not. This realization prompted action to at least partially address the imbalance. In this way, the idea for the Great Transversal of Minnesota was born.

Limited Internet and cable access in Peru provided ample opportunity for undisturbed reflection. My thoughts always led back to my arrival, how it was marred by delay after delay and the intense frustration I felt at being a victim of circumstances completely out of my control. I realized the intense frustration I felt during my trip was something the children of the orphanage live with every day of their lives. No one consulted them about being born in a shantytown with a family unable to care for them, or worse, want them. They didn’t choose to live in a walled compound while other children their age got to enjoy unimaginable freedoms: trips to the zoo, the movies, vacations with their families, and the like. It was then I realized that of everything the children lacked, the most glaring was opportunity. At the same time, I learned of Global Volunteer’s academic sponsorship program. The idea is simple: a sponsor provides money to send a qualified student from P.P.A. to college. Yet even though it costs a mere $500 per year to sponsor an individual, the program was forced to turn away several deserving students in 2008 due to a lack of funds.

My conviction to sponsor the children of P.P.A. in their college education was catalyzed by an anonymous quote read by a fellow volunteer: “Because I have been given much, I too must give.” From this conviction, the idea for the Great Transversal of Minnesota slowly crystallized: I would apply my passion for endurance sports towards raising scholarship funds for the orphans and hence transfer some of my abundant opportunity to the underprivileged orphans of P.P.A.

Being young, idealistic, and impressionable, I kept the idea in the back of my mind. Only months later, when I was brainstorming ways I could raise money for college scholarships for orphans in Lima, Peru, did the idea to use The Great Transversal occur to me. Suddenly everything made so much sense. This crazy little idea, conceived many months ago in the sweltering heat of the Minnesota summer, has finally come to fruition.

On June 6th, I will begin a 400-mile, 7-day trip across Minnesota. Travel from the North Shore of Lake Superior to Rochester will be solely human powered, involving kayaking, swimming, biking, rollerskiing (similar to rollerblading but with ski poles), and running. My goal is to raise $5,000 dollars in sponsorship. All funds will be donated toward college scholarships for the orphans. More route details will be forthcoming, but the adventure will begin with kayaking in Lake Superior and will finish when I run the final 20 miles into Rochester, my hometown.

- Mike Torchia, Peru volunteer and college student

(If you'd like to contribute to Mike's effort: select "fundraising page to view" and click on "Mike Torchia.")