2,000 Miles for Smiles

Nitty-Gritties

Working solely in Cambodia, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) – For a Child’s Smile – was founded by French Nationals in the early 1990’s. Motivated by witnessing Cambodian children scavenging for food in dumps and living in squalor, PSE’s mission is to provide care for the most underprivileged and needy children, who are victims of poverty and abuse. PSE’s program areas include, but are not limited to education, vocational training centers/guidance, health and hygiene, protection follow up (shelter for orphans and foster family programs), housing assistance for families, and various extracurricular activities. With the assistance of PSE, over 6,000 children are benefitting from their programs, and over 3,500 children have successfully integrated back into society.

Working solely in Cambodia, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) – For a Child’s Smile – was founded by French Nationals in the early 1990’s. Motivated by witnessing Cambodian children scavenging for food in dumps and living in squalor, PSE’s mission is to provide care for the most underprivileged and needy children, who are victims of poverty and abuse. PSE’s program areas include, but are not limited to education, vocational training centers/guidance, health and hygiene, protection follow up (shelter for orphans and foster family programs), housing assistance for families, and various extracurricular activities. With the assistance of PSE, over 6,000 children are benefitting from their programs, and over 3,500 children have successfully integrated back into society.

In total, PSE has more than 450 employees: teachers, doctors, social workers, trainers in their Vocational Centre, IT specialists, maintenance workers, administrators, plus 100 social employees.

Through Give2Asia, philanthropy driven cyclist, Max Prieto established a Fiscal Sponsorship Fund titled ‘Miles for Smiles’, in order to raise money and awareness for PSE. Setting his financial goal high, Max biked over 2,000 miles, promoting and fundraising, over a period of five weeks.

Currently, he has exceeded his initial goal.

With funds still flowing Max hopes that people continue to support PSE, and hopes to inspire others to undertake similar endeavors.

The Up Hill

Before embarking on his adventure across the US Midwest, Prieto spent five weeks working at a PSE center in Phnom Penh. Shocked to see how children were living (or dare we say, surviving?), and witnessing first-hand how beneficial and effective the efforts of PSE were, Max immediately became an avid supporter. He was really drawn to their multidimensional approach in helping children truly escape poverty; which focused not only on health and education, but vocational training and rice compensation as well. In addition to wanting to provide continuous support, a bike trip across the US had also been in the works. Why not do both at the same time?

“When I decided to make it a fundraiser, my motivation also came from being able to help support PSE’s work,” explained Max.

The funny part is that Max had never “gone on a ride longer than 10 miles, before deciding to do the trip,” the aspects of challenge and adventure were large inspirations. Compared to running, biking would cover more ground (a longer trip) and allow for a better chance to raise more money and spread awareness.

Besides the fact that biking over 2,000 miles would be a challenge, there were also other perils to consider:  weather, wildlife, and even people. “My biggest fear in the beginning was getting robbed,” said Max. Travelling alone most of the time, he took precautions and stayed in small towns with minimal crime. His solo encounter with a mountain lion must have been breathtaking.

* To help cover the cost of the majority of the ride, Max was sponsored by Ivalua. This way, all the funds raised went directly to For a Child’s Smile.

Almost At the Top

“The most challenging part of the whole trip was the first week. I had never done anything close to the physical challenge of cycling 8-9 hours per day. Unfortunately, between classes, work and setting up the fundraising part of the trip, I did not have time to physically prepare. I actually ended up heading out an hour after my last exam. Those first days were pretty rough. After all those hours battling wind and motivating myself to continue, at the end of the day I just about had enough energy to find somewhere to set up tent and cook something quick before going to bed. Then I would wake up and do it all again. Luckily, after I got in shape and I got to know my body a little better I was able to enjoy the whole experience more.”

Cruise Control

After strenuous uphill rides, the down hills were always welcomed and rewarding. However, the most gratifying aspect for Max would be the challenge of cycling to Seattle and exceeding his fundraising goal for PSE. He also experienced a lot of compassion from the people he met along the way.

“I was amazed at how open and welcoming people were towards a random lone traveler. People along the way would give me food, water, a place to stay or showers without asking. At first I was worried the total goal would not be reached, but a lot of people helped out and donated.”

Despite all the challenges, the fundraising, and promoting, there was still time to take in and appreciate nature and his surroundings. Max found he had a lot of time to think about a little bit of everything; from life choices to the children in Cambodia. And, a lot of time to clear his mind and live in the beautiful dawns and dusks of the many locations that he camped in.

The Finish Line

“After working at the center, I believe you develop a lifelong tie to the children and the cause. I hope that I will continue to be able to contribute to the cause.”