Cyclist embarks on three-year journey for SOS Children’s Villages

Tana Silverland had no problem surrendering three years of her life to a challenging journey, nearly on a whim.

Tana Silverland has been on a charitable bike journey for the past year. It started in the Yukon and will end in Newfoundland in the fall of 2012

Tana Silverland has been on a charitable bike journey for the past year. It started in the Yukon and will end in Newfoundland in the fall of 2012

Tana Silverland had no problem surrendering three years of her life to a challenging journey, nearly on a whim.

“I’d already given up 10 years of my life without having any choice in the matter,” Silverland said.

“So devoting a few years to something I believe passionately in was not a difficult commitment at all.”

Silverland, a permanent resident of Canada originally from the U.K., has been on a charitable bike journey for the past year. It started in the Yukon and will end in Newfoundland in the fall of 2012, raising awareness and funds for SOS Children’s Villages.

The idea for the journey came a year and a half ago, when Silverland was waiting for her Canadian residency visa to arrive.

“I realized having loving parents of my own, what a positive difference it made in my life . . . there is no justice in the world if I get that and another child doesn’t,” Silverland said.

Realizations and epiphanies come frequently to Silverland, because of what she’s been through. In the mid-1990s, she was struck with a mysterious illness, while living in her native U.K. Doctors were never able to tell her exactly what caused her body to essentially shut down.

“It was an incredibly long and slow process of recovery, I was bed-ridden for a couple of years, and the following eight years I was disabled, but gradually getting stronger,” Silverland said.

Silverland eventually discovered SOS Children’s Villages and was immediately taken with the charity.

“Rather than building institutional orphanages, they actually build family homes,” Silverland said.

“The love and the hugs and all the intangible things they focus on, that are so important in a child’s life, is SOS Children’s Villages’ greatest strength.”

Silverland’s bike journey is funded and managed entirely by herself, and even when the harsh Canadian winters come, she intends to continue to ride (shorter distances of course) in the cold. She said the trip is more of an awareness raising mission for SOS Children’s Villages than a fundraiser; and she has embraced a nomadic lifestyle to accommodate her mandate of giving as much attention as possible to the charity.

“I am genuinely dependent on the kindness of strangers as I travel, because I have quite deliberately not sought donations or funding for myself for the journey,” Silverland said.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way . . . of course, the flip side is I have no money whatsoever.”

Her trip will continue this morning, as she leaves Red Deer and heads to Edmonton. After that, it’s off to Peace River and then the Northwest Territories.

Silverland plans her trip three months at a time and adjusts on the fly if she thinks a certain place will be receptive to her cause. She has spoken with hundreds if not thousands of people, she said, and decided to travel west to east because “that’s the way the wind blows, predominately.”

She also regularly updates her blog and snaps interesting shots of the scenery and people she encounters along the way. She named the online travel log A Place to Call Home.

When the nearly three-year journey finally wraps in the fall of 2012, Silverland will be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship, an opportunity she would gratefully accept, she said. She has loved Canada since she travelled here on vacation shortly after fully recovering for her long and strange sickness.

“As a new Canadian, this journey is a wonderful way of getting to know my new country . . . and if they ask me any questions on Canadian geography (on the citizenship test), I should be OK.”

To follow Silverland on her journey, or to donate to SOS Children’s Villages, visit tanasilverland.wordpress.com.

syoung@bprda.wpengine.com

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