11 Feb 2014

Orient Express: from London to Shanghai by bicycle

James' bike 

As you are reading this, cyclist James Finnerty is riding out of Istanbul, where East meets West, and heading into the Turkish mountains. But this is not just any bike ride. James is cycling some 10,000 miles from London to Shanghai on a fundraising bike ride full of eastern promise.

Setting off from his home in Surrey last October, James is pedalling hard to raise money for Samuel's Childrens Charity – a Sussex-based charity providing support to families affected by childhood cancer. He’ll also be cycling in memory of his friend’s daughter, Jasmini Allen – a brave girl who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that affects the brain and spine.

Supporting families affected by childhood cancer

Samuel's Childrens Charity was founded by Samantha Baker-Read in August 2010. It was created following the tragic loss of her 10 year old son Samuel-Lee after a short ten-month battle with a brain tumour.

Run by Samantha and Amanda, Samuel’s nanny, the charity aims to provide instant support to families affected by childhood cancer. Referrals come direct from medical professionals and are fulfilled within a day or two but very often just a few hours.

As well as providing emotional support and advice, the charity strives to support those affected with much-needed breaks, toys, laptops/tablets, garden equipment and funds for home improvements/adaptations – all designed to make lives easier for families.

Samantha adds: “We also try to support our families emotionally - meeting up, hospital visits, talking on the phone/over the internet - any way we can. It is very important to not feel alone during this, sometimes, isolating journey. Time is very important and things can change in the blink of an eye our experience taught us that so we feel it important to act right away.”

James explains why he chose to fundraise for Samuel’s Childrens Charity: “The charity provided a lot of emotional support for my friend whilst her daughter went through terminal cancer. They provide a mix of help from arranging days out for kids, entertainment for them during hospital stays or helping family members visit children who may not normally have the means to do so.”

Outrunning a wild boar in Austria

James believes the trip has presented a lot of challenges, as well as highs and lows. As well as learning bicycle maintenance the hard way, James has had to navigate the bureaucratic nightmare that is Serbian-language paperwork. On the positive side, James has been touched by the hospitality he has received on his travels.

He said: “A big low was when I was chased out of my campsite by a wild boar in Austria. Biggest high points are mostly people who I've met, I've ended up being invited to a Christening in Hungary and also invited into many people’s homes in Bulgaria. I've received so much kind help it's great.”

Involve your donors

So how did James tackle such a daring mission? The answer: don't think about it too much. He said: “Break it down into smaller chunks. When I left home I told myself I was just riding from London to Luxembourg, which was daunting enough! Then I aimed for Vienna and then onto Istanbul. At this point it feels like I don't need to think of a goal anymore, I just take it as it comes and enjoy it. Also remember it's not a race, you need to be able to push on constantly.”

James recommends: “Try to keep people interested and get them involved. It helps if you have a way to give donators something above and beyond the satisfaction of donating such as blogging about a journey or having a photo feed if you are handy with a camera.”

Speaking on his choice of fundraising website, James said: “MyDonate was the easiest for a small charity to get setup on and also had the lowest fees.”

Samantha said: “We chose MyDonate after asking fellow fundraisers who was best and MyDonate came out on top!”

Donate to James’ Orient Express mission through his fundraising page.

You can also follow James’ progress on his Facebook page and read about his adventures on his dedicated blog ‘London to Shanghai – 121 degrees’.

MyDonate is not responsible for the content fundraisers post on their pages, but if you see something you feel is offensive or inappropriate, please let us know