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Cross-country ride aids SOS Children’s Villages

Tana Silverland rolled into Fort Macleod on Friday on her recumbent trike. Silverland is cycling across Canada to raise awareness of SOS Children's Villages, which support orphans in 130 countries.

A recent immigrant is cycling across Canada in support of an organization that gives orphans in more than 130 countries a place they can call home, and hope for a bright future.
Tana Silverland is on a 2 1/2-year journey on her recumbent trike across Canada to raise awareness of SOS Children’s Villages.
Silverland, who arrived Friday in Fort Macleod, is a most unlikely athlete to tackle a cross-country journey. She spent 10 years all but bedridden by a mysterious illness that was never diagnosed.
“I just lost all energy and power in my muscles and body as a whole,” Silverland said.
It was the support Silverland got from her devoted family while she was ill that got her thinking about a major initiative to help SOS Children’s Villages.
“I don’t imagine it was anything more than any loving parent would give to their child really, but perhaps being ill for so long gave me the time to really notice and reflect on the difference that having that love has made to my life and who I am as a person. And that has made me passionate about trying to ensure that every child gets the same stable, loving start in life with a mother or father they can turn to, which is what SOS Children’s Villages works to provide.”
Silverland was aware of SOS Children’s Villages from the organization’s office near where she lived in England. When her health was restored, Silverland began thinking of a way to help raise awareness and settled on a cross-country journey in Canada, a country she had visited and came to love.
Silverland never had any doubt such an undertaking was possible.
“I just never believed I couldn’t, and that is thanks to my parents bringing me up to believe in myself.”
After deciding the ride was something she could handle physically, Silverland set about planning the details of her solitary journey without a support team.
Family and friends took the news in stride.
“There was excitement, a little bit of envy perhaps, but certainly no surprise,” Silverland said. “They all know me, after all.”
Silverland spent hours at her computer researching the details of crossing Canada, looking at Google Maps and sending e-mails to people for advice, from which an important tip emerged.
“Go west to east because that’s the way the winds blow,” said Silverland, who trained for two years to handle the rigors of her journey.
In addition to the opportunity to support SOS Children’s Villages, Silverland was also excited about the chance to immigrate to Canada.
“I came here on holiday many years ago and simply fell in love with the country and its people, so I’ve been trying to get back here as an immigrant ever since,” she explained. “I finally arrived last June, but have been on this journey since the day I landed, so I don’t yet have a home in Canada. At the moment, I am genuinely homeless.”
As someone who is homeless for the moment, Silverland is interested to know why people live where they do and is asking those she meets what they love about their community.
“Apart from my personal interest as a newcomer to the country I’m hoping that by encouraging people to think about what it means to have a place to call home, they might also think about what it must be like not to have that, which, of course, is the situation for the millions of orphans around the world that SOS Children’s Villages would love to help if it had the necessary support.”
Silverland will also use the information she gathers from Canadians to help decide where she will settle when the ride is done.
Silverland is travelling by herself, lining up hosts in the communities where she will stay. That is proving one of the biggest challenges of the trip.
“I’m constantly working to try and make contacts in every town I hope to visit.”
Silverland has cycled more than 3,500 kilometres her journey began last June in Whitehorse. She intends to arrive at Cape Spear, NFLD, in the fall of 2012.
If you would like to follow her journey, go to http://tanasilverland.wordpress.com.
To support SOS Children’s Villages visit www.soschildrensvillages.ca and click on “You Can Help” or call 1-800-767-5111.
Silverland does not consider that she is putting her life on hold for 2 1/2 years while she makes the journey across Canada.
“It was the illness that put my life on hold. This journey is my life at the moment.”
Silverland is holding up well physically and the trip is turning out to be everything she hoped.
The responses from the people she meets, once they realize Silverland is on her own, range from, “Aren’t you brave?” to “Incredible!”
Silverland wants people to be less impressed with her than they are with SOS Children’s Villages.
“I am so impressed that the charity works so hard to provide not just the material things that a child needs — food, clothing shelter, education– but the love, respect, security and stability that make such a huge difference to a child’s quality of life and outlook as they mature. And, having such a wonderful mom myself, I love the fact that SOS children get a loving mom too.”

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