Breaking down barriers

Karan Malik, Head of Programmes – India, reflects on a personal challenge that tested his physical endurance to the limit as part of a remarkable team, cycling across Sri-Lanka in aid of the British Asian Trust.

My work with the British Asian Trust frequently pushes me and expands my boundaries in terms of dealing with complex situations, challenging preconceived notions, and grappling with uncertainty. I cannot say however that I have ever been challenged physically as I was a couple of weeks ago when I found myself attempting to cover almost 300 kms over the length of Sri Lanka over four days – on a bicycle!

Three years ago, a group of our committed and passionate supporters, led by Rohit Chadha and Bobby Ahluwalia, came up with the idea of challenging themselves and their limits, and using that to raise money for a great cause. They started The Most Exotic Challenge in 2016 in India, followed by Cambodia and Tanzania in subsequent years, and now Sri Lanka in 2019. The riders come together each year in November to ride across a new terrain and learn about a new culture each, while raising the bar annually on the funds they can raise.

This year alone, they have managed to raise almost £275,000 between them from their friends, family and other networks – a staggering sum for a small group of individuals, driven (or pedalled) by no more than passion and conviction.

The money they have raised goes towards supporting the work of the British Asian Trust in anti-trafficking – keeping children out of labour and exploitation and helping them stay in schools, getting businesses to stop using children or other forced labour, and working with governments to improve systems.

The trip itself was exhilarating and deeply challenging. Personally, I was unused to the rigours of cycling, and found it tough going, especially on some of those hills and in the beating sun of Sri Lanka. But the motivation of what we could achieve through completing this challenge helped me push through the barriers – the physical barriers of pain and discomfort, and the mental ones, of me placing limits on my own self and what I was capable of. And being able to push through those barriers and conquer those (metaphorical and literal) hills was one of the most satisfying feelings I have ever had!

The people on the trip were a fantastic lot. Coming from all over the world, united by no more than the simple desire to contribute towards the building of a better world, and willing to not only push their physical limits but also go beyond their comfort zones to get their family and friends to contribute, and understand the goals they are trying to help achieve – it takes a lot for people to commit to that. We have seen the results in the phenomenal success they have had with fundraising this year, and I have no doubt that they will achieve multiples of that the next year – the fifth year of the bike ride. I am already looking forward to breaking multiple barriers the next time around (and practicing a bit more before then too).

I would encourage you to join us in this journey as well – you can contribute here, and learn more about our work here.

Karan Malik, Head of Programmes – India
November 2019.