A girl reads from a book in a Unicef-supported temporary learning centre in the village of Basti Bhaya in Rajanpur, one of the worst flood-affected districts in Punjab Province in Pakistan. Funds raised by Road to Awareness charity will be given for two educational projects in Romania and Pakistan. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: When he founded the Road to Awareness charity event in 2008, Guido De Wilde never expected that they would raise more than $1 million (Dh3.67 million) in its first three years alone.

"This all began when I was attending an executive meeting in July 2007. It was around the time of the Tour de France. While watching it, we began talking about cycling and it turned out that 13 of us, including me, were avid cyclists. Then someone brought up the idea of combining our passion with a worthy cause," the senior vice-president and regional director of Starwood hotels and resorts Middle East, said.

For the 2011 edition saw 20 cyclists, ranging from bellboys to executives, along with an 18-member support team that include a doctor, mechanic and masseuse take to the French Alps for a 300 kilometre tour that includes seven climbs at 2,100 metres above sea level.


"The first two tours, which took place in France, were for executives only but we decided to open it up for any employee in Starwoods in 2010 when we toured Italy's Dolomites mountains, as long as they are very fit because this is not an easy route, whether going up or coming back down," De Wilde, a 53-year-old Belgian expatriate, said.

He added: "I wanted to make it a five-day tour that included three days of cycling because currently it takes one day to arrive and set up, one day to cycle and the final day to prepare to leave. But it became obvious for various reasons, including a work perspective that three days was a more achievable schedule."

Road to Awareness is conducted with Unicef, which the Starwood hotel group has been supporting through various initiatives since 1995. Since the charity cycle tour first launched, it has raised approximately $400,000 (Dh1,469,260) each year, double the initial target of $200,000 (Dh734,630). "We were all shocked that even for the event's first tour we managed to exceed the amount that was initially set. So far, the money raised has been given for Unicef's programmes in Mozambique, Egypt and various parts of Africa. This year, the money raised will be split between two educational projects in Romania and Pakistan," De Wilde said.

Funds are raised through various events organised by Starwood hotels. In the capital, the Sheraton Hotel and Resort Abu Dhabi is participating through various events, including a second hand bazaar, or Flea Market, that will take place on September 17 and an inter-hotel volleyball tournament. The hotel is aiming to raise $8,000 (about Dh30,000), which will be donated at the end of September.

Support the cause

The next flee bazaar will take place on Saturday, September 17 from 9am to 2pm in the hotel's Arzanah ballroom.

For further information or inquires, please call 02 6970 257 or email martina.venus@sheraton.com