A club formed five years ago to cater for the growing number of cycling enthusiasts in the area has become a much admired group throughout our community – and a powerhouse when it comes raising funds for those most in need.
Officially formed in February 2015, the Sydney Muslims Cyclists Club was the brainchild of popular community leader and one of my dearest friends, Osman Karolia, himself a very keen cyclist, as many of you would already be aware.
Now in its sixth year, the Sydney Muslim Cyclists are going from strength to strength and this Sunday morning, the Club will hold its annual charity ride – this year cycling from Lakemba to Wollongong to raise much needed donations for the orphans and others displaced in war torn Syria.
“Going back a few years, there were many ‘pockets’ of Muslim cyclists in the south west Sydney region but no one specific group or club,” Sydney Muslim Cyclists Club president Dr Tarek Sari reminisced when I caught up with him this week.
“Being the proactive man that he is, Osman (Karolia) started sending out regular emails to the various groups of cyclists to keep them informed of what was going on.
“The idea was that we should get together as one group, and eventually 25 of us met up for our first combined event, a ride to Bondi beach….and the rest is history.
“Omar El Eter was our first president and did a great job in the role from 2015 to 2017 after which I took on the position.
“Our members vary in cycling ability from the veterans to the casual weekly riders.
“We aim to cater for all different types of levels from easy weekly rides to intense training rides.
“We also participate in local in-house events and more formal external rides, including an event organised by one of our members in co-operation with AIM which helps raise funds for the Westmead Childrens’ Hospital.”
It’s important to note that the club is open to all people regardless of ethnicity, colour or faith.
“Registration is open to all Australians who wish to join in on a healthy lifestyle and have good clean fun,” Tarek explained.
“Our main focus is to help build bridges within the Australian community through our love of cycling, and we have a firm commitment toward raising funds for those in clear need of assistance.
“To be able to do something which we enjoy and raise money for very worthy charities at the same time is very uplifting.”
The past five years has seen the Muslim Cyclists involved in some fantastic fundraising endeavours.
For example, in January 2018, the SMC were instrumental in raising $40,000 for the Tumut Hospital via the Tumut Cycle Classic bike ride.
The Club’s history with the rural community dates back a number of years, raising some $80,000 for drought relief in 2018, and the current plight of our farmers is an important call to action for them.
This year’s AusRelief-sponsored Tumut Cycle Classic (scheduled for January) was unfortunately cancelled owing to the bushfires, but this setback will only spur Tarek and his fellow organisers on to making the 2021 offering, bigger and better than ever.
Other massive achievements by SMC include raising $25,000 in 2018/19 courtesy of rides from Sydney to The Entrance and Kiama respectively to build a school and multipurpose centre in regional Indonesia.
Twelve months earlier, a two day ride to Canberra saw SMC raise much needed funds for the displaced in Burma, Syria and Palestine.
“Last year, SMC, alongside our major sponsor Human Appeal Australia, successfully raised $75,000 for the birthing unit of Bankstown Hospital, and high profile participants in the fundraising ride were the State Member for Lakemba Jihad Dib and City of Canterbury Bankstown Councillor Bilal El-Hayek.
Tarek is full of praise for Human Appeal Australia.
“Human Appeal Australia has been a trustworthy and reliable relief organisation for over 25 years, helping the needy here in Australia and in various trouble spots throughout the world.
“All donations towards Sunday’s ride are made through Human Appeal Australia and not only are all donations exceeding $2.00 tax deductible, but you know that the money you are donating is going to those who need it most.”
Sunday’s ride has been meticulously planned, with Tarek and his fellow organisers leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the event will go off without a hitch.
“Two groups will participate in the ride, with group one comprising 25 riders to set off from Lakemba Mosque at 5.50am after the completion of morning prayers.
“They will be joined by group two (seven riders) at Stanwell Tops for the final 35 kilometres of the ride to the destination at Stuart Park in Wollongong.
“We’ve unfortunately had to abort plans to hold a sausage sizzle at the finish line with the Syrian refugees we had invited as our special guests, owing to the current Coronavirus crisis.
“To this end, we also want to ensure that all 32 riders are fighting fit, and any participant who is off colour or feeling anything less than one hundred percent on Sunday morning will be strongly encouraged to withdraw.”
Tarek lauded the Lebanese Muslims Association’s kindness, in once again this year donating a minibus which will act as a support vehicle.
“Any rider whose bike requires repairs will be able to do so in the comfort of the minibus, where riders will also be able to refresh and rehydrate themselves with water, bananas, energy drinks and the like.
“The riders will of course return to Sydney in the minibus and we have a specially designated bike trailer to bring the bikes back with us.”
On a personal note, I have known Tarek Sari, Osman Karolia and many of the other SMC members for many years.
They are all great men and great Muslims.
Here’s hoping that Sunday is a perfect day weather wise, and that all of these brothers have a safe and enjoyable ride to Wollongong, which of course is New South Wales’ third largest city.
The second stage of the ride from Stanwell Tops descending to Stanwell Park, then along the Lowest Coast Rd and across the magnificent Sea Cliff Bridge, offers breathtaking ocean views which continue all the way to the finish line near the beach in Wollongong.
So all is set for a magnificent climax to a great event which will raise funds for the poor people of Syria, who with the onset of winter, are currently experiencing hardships that those of us here in Australia would find very hard to imagine.
TO DONATE TO THIS VERY WORTHY CAUSE
All donations over $2.00 are Tax Deductible.
If you are able to assist, please click on the link below and follow the steps:
All donations are most gratefully received and remember, no donation is too small.