In November 2012, Singapore permanent resident Ian Bland worked as a trisikad driver in Tabunok, Talisay City, Cebu, for a week. He did the sponsored bike rides for seven days as a way to raise money and awareness of the challenges faced by people living in such circumstances. His goal was to raise five thousand dollars for his chosen charity, AkarakA.
A non-government organization for which Ian is a freelance worker, AkarakA (www.akaraka.org.sg) provides intervention in the form of tertiary-level scholarships for youth in poor communities. With a good education, these young adults get the opportunity to gain decent employment. With a regular salary, they will be more able to help their entire family rise from poverty. Without it, they are destined to repeat the cycle. AkarakA supports over a hundred economically disadvantaged students in the Philippines.
Ian was going to do a sponsored bicycle ride but thought that being a trisikad driver would be more unusual and more of a challenge. He thanked Lihuk Panaghiusa (www.lihuk.org), an organization that works in communities like these, for helping him with the logistics of the challenge that he took on.
To immerse himself in a typical trisikad driver’s experience, Ian stayed in Tabunok with his eighteen-year-old host Gian, an AkarakA scholarship recipient who also earns a living as a trisikad driver and lives in an informal settler’s shack with his parents, two brothers, and a little sister. In an interview with the Grimsby Telegraph, a UK paper, Ian said that the locals had never seen a Caucasian trisikad driver before, and the first few days, they stared and pointed.
He rented a local trisikad for about Php50 a day. The typical trisikad is a small BMX-sized bike with an iron sidecar frame welded next to it so it can accommodate passengers. The distance traveled by trisikad in a single trip is about two kilometers. Ian trained on a mountain bike while in Singapore, but his training was not at all like the struggle of pedaling the trisikad with up to four people in the sidecar. He also tired quickly from ferrying passengers around in the trisikad for up to twelve hours, because he only ate the same food that his host family ate, a basic diet of rice that was not enough to replenish the calories he burned. Because of his trisikad stint, Ian lost four kilograms. Singapore national paper Today reported in its full-page article about Ian’s challenge that he earned between Php55 and PhP170 a day and had to watch every cent that he used so that he could make ends meet.
After the week of trisikad driving, Ian stayed in Cebu for another week and worked with Cebu Technological University to devise a possible business plan challenge for CTU students. For this competition, AkarakA envisions bringing top-level experienced professionals from multinational companies (such as Accenture, Deutsche Bank, DHL, and DKS) to mentor and guide participating students. These mentors would answer the students’ questions and help them develop and refine their business plans. By sharing their knowledge, such savvy people from the business world would help the students achieve. Interested people can find out more about the business plan challenge by going to the in-progress site http://student.akaraka.org.sg/
In connection with the business plan challenge, AkarakA also plans to offer free Web development and hosting platforms for students. The Web development accounts are intended for teams of two to three students, with openings for as many as four hundred participants in the business plan competition. AkarakA’s programs are in a similar vein to what the DOST Technology Business Incubator initiative is trying to accomplish.