As you may have noticed, this year we have changed our fundraising partner from Choose Love to MASS Action.
There are a few reasons for the change, but the one that kicked it all off was because Choose Love made a decision last year to scale back their number of partnership organisations.
Choose Love are still doing good work and they still support Thighs, just not as our fundraising partner.
But that's cool because MASS Action are AWESOME.
MASS Action are, in some ways, very similar to Choose Love, in that they are a registered charity that can raise funds in the UK on behalf of important grassroots projects who don't have capacity to set up as a charity themselves.
In other ways, however, MASS Action are TOTALLY different!
For starters, they are a non-hierarchical and volunteer-run organisation. Furthermore, their volunteers are all people who have been or are currently still working on the ground with various refugee projects.
In fact, MASS was set up by nine Khora Athens volunteers, including some of the same people who set up Thighs of Steel.
MASS, Thighs and Khora are sisters. 🥰
If you're interested, we heartily recommend reading MASS Action's about page for the whole story on how they work. (And they'd love to hear from you if you're interested in getting involved in some way...)
Khora already do most of their own fundraising through MASS and a decent dollop of whatever Thighs manage to fundraise this year will go to Khora. (So far, collectively, we've raised £11,620)
We hope this news is as helpful and exciting for you as it is for us!
Well done and a massive thank you to all you wonderful cyclists. As a group, we have fundraised an AMAZING £43,000 incl gift aid!
We've spent the last few days catching up on sleep and chatting to Skipchen about their progress and what our money will enable them to do. To get everyone up to speed, here is a snapshot summary of their beginnings and what lies ahead...
Skipchen is a Bristol based food organisation that acted upon the need to support refugees back in November. Hearing about the appaulling conditions in Lesvos, they travelled there and successfully set up a kitchen that provided food for thousands of people daily. Preempting the change in EU policy, and recognising the instability of the political situation in the refugee camps, they recently moved to Athens, where many displaced people are gravitating to, needing long-term support. This is where we have found them, at the end of our long, long cycle and at the beginning of their inspiring and ambitious project.
As part of establishing themselves as a long-standing project here, they recognised that they needed to work under a more appropriate name as their aims are very different to Skipchen which still runs in Bristol. They have now fully transitioned to being Khora, a Greek cooperative foundation. Their aim is 'to provide a hub for refugees stranded in Greece. The idea is to be a welcoming community space where displaced people can interact with the international and local community and access services and information key to their survival and integration in Europe.' Sam, Khora's co-founder.
To do this they are taking on a 7 storey property in Athens, each floor focusing on different needs of refugees. The ground floor will be dedicated to food, another to hygiene, another to education and another to computer access and legal advice, just to name a few.
The money we have fundraised is crucial to setting this project up. It can pay for the entire set up of building plus 50,000 meals, or all of the rent for a year with extra to spare, or 120,000 meals... However it is phrased, it will bring about a lot of good.
This amount of money has only come about from the leg work of Kathleen, Josh, Mary, Thuli, Adam, Cosmo, Joe, Toby, Natasha, Alex,
Megan, Joe Bourdillon-Schicker, Edward, Rachel, Phil, Joe, Oli, Christopher, Harri, Simon, Arthur, Matt, Eiblein, Sof, Theo, Sara, Kirsty,
Eleanor, Hanna, Jon, Alice, Greg, Majeeda, Alex Holsgrove, Nele, Heni, Jack, Faye, Tom, Nedah, Connie and Luke.
We salute you, tip are hats to you, and it makes us really excited to maybe, just maybe, think about doing it all again next year....
WE HAVE ARRIVED IN ATHENS!!
It feels too hard to sum up the journey right now... a crazy, wonderful 6 week jumble.
Well done to everyone that has been a part of this and made it everything that it has been. We've fundraised £34,500 so far, which is all down to all of you being incredible. We're going to ply you with updates over the next few months about what the money is doing and all the good it's bringing about. For now, lets share this post and try and round that number up to a satisfying £35,000, as this will pay for over 100,000 meals for refugees in Athens.
Now it's time for us to sleep!
Having managed to tear ourselves away from the kittens at Antonio's place, the group survived their 100km cycle and arrived at our wild camping spot by a lake, complete with dappled shade and then very quickly an imminent storm brewing. Our rapidly increasing concern about how to cook dinner for 14 in a storm without shelter was immediately put to rest by Spiros, who had allowed us to camp on his land, zooming up on his tractor and shouting 'DON'T DO ANYTHING, BIG RAIN COMING, YOU WILL STAY WITH ME, MY MUM WILL COOK FOR YOU'. Happy news. Spiros' unsuspecting mother coped amazingly with zero minutes notice and served us handmade spinach and feta parcels with spinach and feta made from their land/sheep, and then mountains of spaghetti bolognese. Spiros on the other hand, tried to ply us with his 80% home-brewed spirits and persuade us to come dancing in town. Unfortunately for him, we were in party pooper mood as we had all just survived the perils of cycling with a hangover that day. We all tucked up in beds and the floor like sardines in the beautiful stone house his grandfather had built and slept amazingly.
The group is doing amazingly with the cycling, and also with all activities outside of cycling - Joe's cycling-selfie-taking-skills, massage chains, yoga breaks and even a leaf gong bath for Joe Reid. His idea of heaven. We spent a lovely night camping near the beach in an abandoned half built building for shelter from passing showers, and the group have now set off across the bridge to Patras and beyond. Not long to go!
Our lovely host Matteo from Velletri has got us written about in the local Italian press! Read it here.
And hello to week 6! We cycled a sweaty 50km on Sunday afternoon and had then had the very rare bad luck of not finding a wild camping spot! Everyone coped pretty well with the back up option- swim, a mountain of moussaka and a tipsy, star-lit cycle back to a proper campsite. Monday was amazing, full of laughing, singing, cycling and swimming, and being shuttled through a 1km tunnel by a van and trailer! We then arrived at Antonis Guesthouse in Paleros and have been blown away by their warmth and generousity. Dinner was made for us by Antonis' sister, an incredible cook who also plied us with 5 litre bottles of Greek wine. Some very bleary eyed and heavy headed cyclists have just headed off for a 100km cycle through the hot, hot sun, past all manners of tropical roadkill (MANY large snakes, a few tortoises and some indistinguishable creatures so far) and possibly a thunderstorm to add an extra challenge to the afternoon. Good luck! Glad I'm driving the van today!
Wild camping in southern Italy last week with Pasquali, who could tell the pasta was done from 3 metres away. Brilliant smile and incredibly kind. Thank you for welcoming us into your life for an evening without a moment's hesitation! Then on to camping in a church garden with a spring water fountain and a stone table that made our morning meeting feel very important indeed.
With some impressive manoeuvring Calypso got tucked in between the big boys of the vehicle world for our voyage over to Greece. 5 hours sleep later and we woke up in Igoumenitsa, dazed and confused, set up camp in an unsuspecting petrol station for 3 hours, cleaning the van, blogging and washing our clothes in a bucket, ready for another week on the road!