Pedal power raises $50,000 for youth scheme

National cyclist Benedict Lee (front) was among 330 people who put their shoulders to the wheel at yesterday's Cycle Out Poverty event to raise funds for the StarBuilders programme. Disadvantaged youth taking part in the scheme are sent to developing
National cyclist Benedict Lee (front) was among 330 people who put their shoulders to the wheel at yesterday's Cycle Out Poverty event to raise funds for the StarBuilders programme. Disadvantaged youth taking part in the scheme are sent to developing nations in the region to build housing for low-income communities.PHOTO: COURTESY OF WITONO HALIM

More than 300 people climbed on their bicycles and pedalled up to 80km each yesterday for a cause they believed in.

Their "legwork" helped to raise $50,000 for Habitat for Humanity Singapore.

It is the second year that the nonprofit group has organised Cycle Out Poverty, which raises funds for a programme that enables at-risk and underprivileged youth to give back to society. Funds were raised through participation fees, donations and sponsorships.

The StarBuilders programme, started in 2014, gives disadvantaged youth a chance to build housing for low-income communities in developing countries around the region such as Indonesia.

Among the teenagers who have taken part in the programme is a 17-year-old student at the Institute of Technical Education College West who wants to be known only as Khidir.

In December 2014, he went on a six-day house-building trip to Yogyakarta.

He said: "The people there appreciate whatever they have... I learnt not to complain about the things I cannot get and, back here in Singapore, I appreciate the things I have right now."

Said Mr Daniel See, the chairman of Habitat for Humanity Singapore: "The whole idea is to get youth from marginalised or low-income families to participate.

"We thought that, if we could do something to boost their sense of self-worth, help them to recognise their own worth, they would gain, as well as the beneficiaries."

So far, StarBuilders has reached out to between 40 and 50 at-risk and underprivileged youth, said Mr See, and the group has plans to expand the programme so that more youngsters can take part.

Yesterday, 330 people from all walks of life took part in the charity cycling event. They had the option of doing either 40km or 80km.

National cyclist Benedict Lee, 21, pedalled from Orchid Country Club to other spots along the 80km route, including Mandai and Nanyang Technological University.

He said he was keen to do what he could to help those in need, "either through donations or by participating in charity rides".

"You get to cycle with people who love cycling while helping others at the same time. It's a win-win situation," added Mr Lee, who has just completed national service.

Twenty-year-old Tan Jian Song, who is doing national service, also took part.

He admires the StarBuilders programme because, unlike many initiatives that focus on the material needs of the disadvantaged, "this one is different because it goes into building character".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'Pedal power raises $50,000 for youth scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe