Wednesday 21 July 2010

Supporting the Buwan Kothi Challenge This Sunday

Of all the frustrations over the months since I was knocked off my bike, knowing that I wouldn't be able to take part in this year's Buwan Kothi Challenge cycle ride has to be one of the worst.

The annual sponsored event was dreamt up by my friend Cilius and I in 2007 to kickstart fundraising for the Buwan Kothi International Trust. The first year was particularly poignant not only because it was a kind of journey home for me, out to Southend-on-Sea where I was born, stopping off outside the house in Ashingdon that I hadn't seen since the early 1970s. It was also completely overshadowed by the sudden death in March 2007 of my great friend Gilly Mundy, whose marriage to Debbie in the rural Indian village of Buwan Kothi in Haryana had provided the inspiration for establishing the charity.

Gilly's passing helped to give his many friends and his family an extraordinary sense of purpose. We had all reacted with a certain amount of scepticism when, two months before he died, Gilly had suddenly promised to take part in the ride, but I know everyone had that promise at the back of their minds as they slogged through the Essex countryside in July.

Between us, we prevailed - and raised over £16,000. In three years, cyclists from London, Leamington Spa and beyond have so far seen the total funds raised by the annual rides rise to over £40,000. Without their efforts, the Gilly Mundy Memorial Community School in Lehrian, just outside of Buwan Kothi, would not now be providing a decent education to almost 250 primary-aged children in the middle of the vast Haryana farmland.

So today I'm leaving London for Warwickshire and this Sunday, although denied the opportunity to take part in the fourth ride, I'll still pull on my custom-made Buwan Kothi cycle jersey and gather with the riders in Leamington, this time as chief steward and official worrier. I'll be tweeting from @copwatcher throughout the day and if you can spare some cash, I'd like to request that you sponsor two of the riders - Gilly's wife Debbie Mundy and the ride's co-founder Cilus Victor.

The Buwan Kothi Challenge, like the charity itself, is something I am incredibly proud of - and on Sunday, as always, my friend and comrade Gilly will never be far from my thoughts.

Cilius' fundraising page is here and Debbie's is here.

For more information on the Gilly Mundy Memorial Community School and our efforts to support it, visit

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