How did you come up with the idea of joining Plan Vietnam?

I saw a commercial for Cycle for Plan on TV once, and I thought: wow, that’s cool – I’d love to do that some time. I needed to set myself a challenge, something that allows me to help others, too. This is an enormous physical challenge that allows you to do something for a good cause at the same time.

Why did this particular cause appeal to you?

I have a daughter who is nearly ten years old. I absolutely hate the thought of girls that age getting married. But there’s also the contrast between the position of women here and the position of women in Vietnam. The university is focusing on diversity; we wish to see more women in high-ranking positions. This is a good initiative, and we have to keep working towards it. However, it’s a huge contrast with Vietnam, where women in certain areas hardly have any say in anything. Vietnam has a long way to go, but there are things we can do to help reduce the contrast by reducing the number of child marriages.

Participants in the programme must raise at least 4,000 euros to be allowed to participate. So, together you and your friend had to raise 8,000 euros. What did you do to get that money?

The main action we organised was a sponsored run at my children’s school. We provided information to pupils in Years 5, 6, 7 and 8, meaning the kids all knew what they were running and raising funds for. It was quite a hit. The kids rang a lot of doorbells to collect donations. We raised nearly €4,200 through this action alone. The great thing about this action was that it taught the kids that they lead very good lives here. It’s a good thing to work on behalf of others sometimes, and children should learn that. Some children were quite shocked by our story, particularly those in Year 8. They can’t imagine getting married at that age, which is exactly what happens in Vietnam.

You’ll be cycling 400 kilometres in a mountainous area, so yes, that will be quite the physical challenge. How are you training for it?

I’ll start training properly next month. The area where we will be cycling is very mountainous, so it’s kind of hard to prepare for that here. I’ve signed up with a gym, though, so I’ll be taking a lot of spinning classes in the next few months, among other things. I expect to be spending eight hours a day on my bike in Vietnam, so that’s definitely something that requires training.

While participating in Plan Vietnam, you will be seeing the projects Plan is engaged in along the route. What do you expect to see?

This is one of the reasons why I decided to become an active participant, actually, because I wish to see what’s being done with the money. All the participants will be paired up with a child, and we’ll actually meet those children over there. I think it will be shocking to see how girls live over there, particularly since poverty is still quite prevalent in the north.

Patricia and Annette will be cycling in Vietnam between 23 October and 2 November. For more information on their journey and on Cycle for Plan Vietnam, please refer to their action page.