Scrolling through a whatsapp group, I suddenly received a whatsapp message that made me forget everything else I was doing. Bikes… but not just any bikes, Tandem bikes. Riding tandem bikes with children who are visually impaired. The date and time were convenient for me. Fasting? I’ll manage. I knew I had to be there. It was a forwarded message, so I googled it and found the website and Facebook page. When I read the stories and posts, I was shocked to hear what had happened to this person who initiated it.
How did it start?
Two years ago Pierre Samarasinghe and his wife were up against a tough battle of saving their 3 year old son’s life. On the 01st of April, 2016 – little Sidharth closed his eyes for good, and life for Mr. Pierre and his wife would never be the same again.
What started off as a psychological therapy to uplift their spirits turned into a movement that would bring joy to not only them, but to a group of children who have been deprived of the luxury of riding a bicycle due to their disabilities.
Pierre personally made sure that all volunteers would get a basic training on riding tandems the day before. It’s a lot different when you’re riding a tandem with a child who is visually impaired. The child sits at the back and is called the “stoker” and I sit in front – the “pilot”. All steering is done by the pilot.
Pierre was surprised to see so many volunteers – Every year the numbers keep getting better. The message had reached out to many! The children were escorted by the matron and so began our day. We spent the entire evening cycling with those kids. I never realized how easily we take things for granted, the fact that we can see and having the ability to pedal on a bicycle is a luxury these children are unable to have.
I believe what Mr. Pierre has started will one day grow into something bigger than all of us. While working full time in the creative industry, he went through the entire process of bringing down the equipment, bikes and handling the logistics. This is not an easy task since the bikes are expensive and requires a great deal of maintenance.
TandemVision is a non-profit organization that hopefully (fingers crossed) will one day be a platform for the visually impaired children to engage in something recreational and also
support Sri Lanka’s first Paralympic cycling team. What amazed me was the fact that the entire movement was done as an act of honoring his late son who left this earth at a young age. Adversity has caused many of us to break but in Pierre’s case, it has made him break records.
I wish Pierre nothing but the best in his future endeavours!