Neal George and Djuro Karanovic plan bike trek to raise awareness, funds
Neal George and Djuro Karanovic are planning a 450-mile bicycle trip from Cleveland to Washington, D.C. But this isn't a leisurely summer vacation getaway.
As the two Case Western Reserve University students ride through Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, they plan to raise awareness about the war in the African nation of Sudan, which has been ongoing for 21 years. The longest civil war in history, it has displaced more than 4 million people from their homes, and claimed the lives of millions more.
Karanovic, a sophomore studying biology and psychology, and George, a junior business management major, are spearheading "Cycle for Sudan" August 20-27.
"I try to read the news every day, but I didn't know about the situation in Sudan," Karanovic said about his reason for wanting to do something. Born in Zrenjanin, Yugoslavia, he saw the effects of war on civilians in former Yugoslavia and the living conditions of refugees, and as a result was motivated to help the displaced people of Sudan. "People are dying at a rapid rate, and they don't have the basics of food, water and medical care. Nobody is really focusing on getting the help over there."
George currently has an aunt who works in Sudan as part of the order of the Sisters of Charity. She has written to him over the years about her time there, and as a result he decided to take action and join the efforts to aid Sudanese in need. He said they chose to make the trip to Washington, D.C. because the aid agencies and many of the decisions regarding Sudan are made there. "We believe that people must take action in a proactive way to make others aware of a seemingly distant problem. The best way to remedy the situation in Sudan is to get people involved in a united way. We really want to show people that any action—big or small—can make a difference."
They said the lack of awareness and action to help victims of the war prompted them to create Cycle for Sudan last spring. They contacted aid agencies such as the United States Association for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (USA for UNHCR), The International Crisis Group, and The United States Holocaust Museum to gain sponsorship and donations. They've also received help close to home: another Case student, Brandon Siegel, designed their Web site, and the university, as well as a Cleveland-area bicycle shop, are partially sponsoring the trip.
They plan to ride rain or shine. They can't compete with Lance Armstrong, but they have been conditioning for the trip by running and exercising throughout the summer. "We don't have much cycling experience, so this will be a learning experience," Karanovic said. In addition, they plan to sleep outdoors and "rely on the kindness of strangers," he added.
They have been contacted by others who've expressed interest in joining them for the bike trek, which will follow a route averaging about 65 miles daily. Youngstown, Ohio, Pittsburgh (George's hometown), and Cumberland, Md. are a few of the cities they will pass through on their way to the nation's capital.
The riders will not handle any of the donations but instead have collaborated with the UNHCR so that they receive 100 percent of the donations. However, they have been provided with magazines and brochures describing the situation in Sudan, which they will hand out on the trip.
Adrienne Dunsing, a development associate with USA for UNHCR, said grassroots efforts such as Cycle for Sudan are vital to the cause. "As I am sure Neal and Djuro have found, so many simply are unaware about refugees and the work UNHCR does—and this is exactly why we need people like them to raise awareness," Dunsing said via e-mail. "Their commitment is awesome and something I hope they will continue through the coming year—that is if they are up to it after cycling 450 miles!"
Upon completing the trip, both Karanovic and George plan to return to Case to finish up their studies, and both would eventually like to attend graduate school.
For more information about Cycle for Sudan, go to http://www.cycleforsudan.com/.
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