For Carolyn A. McColley '88 these past few days in Cambridge have been more than a little strange. "I keep walking by buildings and thinking I'll see these places again tonight," she says. "I won't be in another town meeting new people."
McColley is one of 33 cyclists--roughly half of whom are Harvard students--who Saturday completed a nine-week-long transcontinental bike trip to raise money to help fight world hunger.
The group, including a 40-year old mother of five and a 64-year-old Harvard alumnus, kicked off its trip June 10 at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. On Saturday, 20 states and 4000 miles later, the cyclists--who encountered snow storms in Wyoming, and Hurricane Bob in Tennessee-ended their journey at Government Center. There, the tired clan was greeted by President Bok and a representative of Governor Michael S. Dukakis, who declared it "Cyclists Fighting Hunger Day."
While the Harvard Hunger Action Committee has sponsored the ride for three summers now, this year's ride included some new stops. Along the route, in addition to giving presentations on hunger, the cyclists visited and participated in some of the projects sponsored by the Save the Children Organization, the major beneficiary of the $100,000 in pledges that the group raised.
In addition, Oxfam-America and the Overseas Development Network organization at Harvard will also receive a portion of the pledges.
The group's stops included a medical clinic on an Indian reservation, a food bank in Denver, a pilot farm in Jackson City, Ky., and at the tail end of their trip, a housing project under renovation in the Lower East Side of New York.
"I hadn't expected to encounter so much hunger and poverty in the U.S. And what's worse--the people working in the food banks and other services said that the number of people needing to use these services has increased over the past few years," said Jane Harrigan, a GSAS student who hails from The Isle of Wight, England.
But despite the poverty of some of the towns the riders encountered, the group was showered with welcome committees and potluck suppers and in town after town, was offered community recreation hall and church floors to sleep on, Harrigan said.
In Medicine Bow, Wyo a town of 400 where mine shutdowns have left many residents unemployed, the group received a warm reception and a number of donations.
In Raytown, Mo. the town put on a fair complete with hot air balloons and raised $2000 for the cyclists' cause. And in Washington D.C., several congressmen and Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) greeted the riders on the steps of the Capitol building.
William H. Appel '43, at the age of 64, was the oldest member of the troupe that also included students from Rutgers, Brown, Berkeley, Boston College, Wisconsin, Wesleyan and the University of Pennsylvania.
Appel, who rode his bike to work for eight years, said the trip made him feel like "the luckiest man in America." After touring the country, he concluded that in "one small town after another, the generosity is wonderful."
Thomas Seery '85, who participated in the ride Jast year, and led it this year, was impressed with the number of communities' hat had undertaken serious campaigns to fight hunger.
"We stopped in towns that we had visited last year and found they were still doing things. Last year's ride hadn't just been one spark," Seery said.
A year ago, 70 riders went on the trip, and while they raised $200,000--twice as much money as this year's group--organizers say the smaller number was easier to work with because it put less of a strain on the host communities.
Ricky J. Kelly '85, who plans to attend the Berkeley School of Public Health in the fall, said next year's ride will be organized out of Berkeley, Rutgers and Harvard, and organizers will aim for $1 million dollars worth of pledges from the three campuses and surrounding communities.
McColley, who will organize the Harvard contingent next year, said that she and her colleagues are "satisfied that we raised awareness about world hunger," and are left with the feeling that "maybe more people will star' doing something about it."