Personal quest moves toward a wider horizon

Maria Mihok’s dream to cycle south along the Pacific Coast has taken on a new direction — heading straight for Guatemala.

Maria Mihok is looking forward to hitting the road on a trip that will see her bicycle from Vancouver to the Mexican border and beyond for A Better World.

Maria Mihok is looking forward to hitting the road on a trip that will see her bicycle from Vancouver to the Mexican border and beyond for A Better World.

Maria Mihok’s dream to cycle south along the Pacific Coast has taken on a new direction — heading straight for Guatemala.

The Red Deer resident will embark on her self-propelled, solo adventure from Vancouver to the U.S.-Mexico border on Sept. 15 to raise money to build a new school in a small Guatemalan village.

“If I’m going anyway, why not try to make a difference in the world?” she said.

The 29-year-old has long wanted to complete the 3,000-km trek as personal challenge. “I want to see what I’m made of,” she explained.

But Mihok was inspired to bring a deeper purpose to her journey after meeting Azalea Lehndorff.

Lehndorff is the young women who founded the 100 Classroom Project, A Better World initiative to build classrooms in Afghanistan.

“My capacity with CARE, I’ve been going into schools and often do a presentation that says you’re never too young to make a difference,” said Mihok, a rural outreach co-ordinator with Central Alberta Refugee Effort. “I’ve got to practise what I preach.”

So she founded Hope Cycle 3000 Guatemala.

Mihok hopes her project will raise $5 per kilometre for a total of $15,000 to build a new two-room school in the Guatemalan village of San Jose de Las Lagrimas. The project will include two latrines, a washing station, furniture and school and teaching supplies.

Carol Brouwer, a local nurse and A Better World project manager who has spearheaded successful projects in Central America, identified the need for a new school.

The village faces a number of challenges: inadequate access to potable water, basic health and medical care, sanitation, housing and more. But the 75 families that call San Jose de Las Lagrimas home are most eager to help build a new school, Mihok said.

Sixty students squeeze into the current one-room building, which is a crumbling adobe hut with only one small window, a broken door and a dirt floor.

Reduviid bugs — insects that carry the potentially fatal Chagas disease — occupy the numerous cracks and holes in the structure.

Mihok wants to raise all the funds and complete construction on the new school by August 2012. A Better World is helping Mihok reach her goal.

“One of the things A Better World does is help people fulfil a passion they have,” said Eric Rajah, co-founder of the Lacombe-based international development organization.

“If the project and the country is within the scope of what A Better World does, then it will support the project.”

He said villages in Guatemala desperately need classrooms and Mihok’s project is one way to help.

A Better World has committed 50 cents for every kilometre Mihok travels — which will equal approximately $1,500. She has collected roughly $500 in pledges so far.

Mihok has saved enough money to support herself during the journey, which will be her first attempt at long-distance cycling.

She will be pulling a one-wheel trailer packed with the bare essentials — a tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, bike repair tools, a couple of changes of clothes, raincoat, head lamp, odometer, tarp, lighter, water, food, nutritional supplements and a few more items.

She plans to travel an average of 100 km every day and anticipates it will take six weeks to pedal from Vancouver to the U.S.-Mexico border.

From there, Mihok will decide whether to continue travel by bike or bus to reach San Jose de Las Lagrimas in Guatemala.

While she feels physically prepared, Mihok knows she’s going to face challenges on the road. But she feels her final goal will provide the motivation to keep going.

“If it was just for me, I could turn back,” she said. “But knowing that I have people who have committed funds and a community that’s really waiting for their school will be that extra push when times get tough.”

Mihok will use an iPhone to document her journey on a travel blog, which will be posted on A Better World’s website.

Visit for more information about Hope Cycle 3000 Guatemala or to donate.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read