The Eco-Charity Cycling the Length of Nepal in Quarantine
Hong Kong/ Terra/ Climate Change

The Charity Cycling the Length of Nepal in Quarantine While Raising Money for Solar Water Pumps

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The 21-day mandatory quarantine arrivals to Hong Kong must complete can take a gruelling emotional and physical toll on the many who decide to return to the city under heavy COVID-19 restrictions.

Creativity and challenges, however, can flourish within the boundaries of a four-walled quarantine hotel room.

A return to Hong Kong from Canada for Jack Wagner and Caitlin Spencer spurred the married couple and business partners to use their solitude indoors to cycle 800 kilometres in their hotel room, the length of Nepal, to raise money for their charity, Solerico, funding environmental projects for the country.

Hong Kong-raised Jack and Cailtin founded Solerico in 2017 in reaction to a frustration about the lack of progress in the fight against climate change. “[We had a] shared frustration with the lack of government incentive or desire to enact real change with regards to reducing carbon emissions of fighting climate change,” they told The Beat Asia.

“We decided the only way change was going to come about was from the private sector and from people who truly care, implementing renewable energy projects in places that needed it the most.”

With the aim of funding projects that both impact the environment and assist vulnerable populations, the team launched two main projects designed to abet local populations in Nepal to work cleaner and live plastic-free.

Their first project, the Nepal Clean Irrigation Initiative, helps replace diesel- powered water pumps used by farmers in Nepal with solar- powered water pumps, eliminating excess environmental damage, reducing costs, providing year-round access to water, and allowing for the outright ownership of one’s own solar pump

The second, the Himalayan Plastics Project, assists local Nepali charity, PSD Nepal, to collect and recycle millions of plastic water bottles in the littered Himalayan Langtang National Park. Solerico runs regular beach clean-ups in Hong Kong, reducing local seashore plastic littering and raising money to tackle the problem in Nepal.

Photo by Solerico Fdn.

Running Solerico as a side-project to their full-time jobs, the pair’ss compulsory quarantine trip spurred them to become creative with a new year boost to fund raising, by kickstarting a mammoth hotel cycling challenge.

For the 21-day sojourn inside, Jack and Caitlin plan to cycle 800 kilometres, the east-west width of Nepal, to raise funds for the Nepal Clean Irrigation Initiative.

“We came up with the idea of completing some form of challenge as soon as we decided we were going to commit to a quarantine stint. We knew we would need to do something to keep us motivated for the 21 days.”

“We figured cycling the length of Nepal is a good fit because one, all our projects are in Nepal and two, our projects happen all over the country so cycling the length of it seemed appropriate. Cycling itself is also a very climate change- friendly mode of transport.”

“We also have not held a fundraiser in two years because of the COVID pandemic and the constantly changing social gathering rules in Hong Kong. We felt this would be a perfect use of our time and a great way to raise awareness of how people can help fight climate change through Solerico.”

Each quarantine day represents a joint 38-to-40-kilometre ride on a stationary gym bike, aiming to fund 21 solar water pumps.

Powered by sunlight, a single solar water pump costs HK$5,500 and can provide farmers with a year-round water source, replacing their diesel -fuel-run water pumps with a more eco alternative.

The farmers that Solerico support operate their farms as cash-crop farmers, generating a nominal income selling produce to local markets.

The outright cost of each solar pump is approximately US$2,000, with Solerico raising 30% of the cost of the pump representing a down payment for the farmer to activate a microfinance loan to finance the remainder of the cost.

Photo by Solerico Fnd.

“Farmers in Nepal simply cannot afford the 30% down payment, as they do not have US$600 at their disposal. However, each month they do have to repay a US$100 loan to pay off the solar water pump after Solerico provides the down payment.”

Since 2017, the charity has installed 29 pumps in local villages and communities in Nepal, offsetting more than 35 tonnes of carbon from the environment, with plans to build 32 more pumps in the future.

Solerico is aiming for a total fundraising goal of HK$115,500. The price for each pump of HK$5,500 captures the 30% down payment. They are raising money through GoGetFunding and welcome donations directly through their website.

Photo by Solerico Fnd.

"The reality is the fight against climate change is also going to take a lot of average citizens making small changes, not just a few large institutions making changes.”

“These small changes might not necessarily offer a huge revenue stream for a for-profit company, given we are a non-profit/charity - we just get projects done, as long as they are sustainable, enact real change for the climate, and empower local communities.”

“The harsh truth is the people most affected by climate change are the ones who are least responsible for it and have the least ability to fight it. These are the people we are helping through our solar water pumps in Nepal.”

Solerico aims to manage projects to protect the environment whilst improving the livelihoods of the world’s most impoverished communities. With maximising impact running projects in a cost-efficient and transparent manner, the charity is engaged in driving for a greener planet and empowering communities globally to flourish sustainability.

The charity’s projects can be found on their website, along with information on how to donate to their fundraising.

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