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28 October 2014

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You are in: Manchester > Features > People > Saddled with responsibility

The majesty of the Pamir Mountains

The majesty of the Pamir Mountains

Saddled with responsibility

For some people, a sense of adventure means considering a holiday in Eastern Europe. Bolton’s Stephen McCutcheon likes things a little harder. He’s spent 5 years taking a horse ride along the Silk Road to help provide education to remote communities.

As he prepared to set out on the final leg of the journey, he explained what has motivated him to swap the comfort of the UK for the hardships of the Gobi desert:

"I left England on a thread of hope that I was stumbling into a truer life and I found it amidst a dusty village in Northern Nepal.  In 2002, with the might of the Himalayas rearing above me each morning, I felt at home.

Stephen McCutcheon on the road in Pakistan

Stephen McCutcheon on the road in Pakistan

"But it was another place, a school with no teachers, a hundred hopeful faces gazing up each morning and not a prayer to guide them on, that inspired me five years ago.  This was the reality I had stumbled in to through my teaching placement and ultimately the setting for Riding for Education (R4E).

"Two years after Nepal, I was holding my breath and looking for somewhere to release it, when a chance encounter on a lonely Burmese road inspired a greater undertaking. Cycles, rickshaws and motorbikes all bring the traveller closer to those he hopes to meet but it was only the timeless rhythm of the saddle that would thread me into the crazed patchwork of cultures I intended to cross.

"The Silk Road provided the unknown I needed and the direction I sought to begin a ride along it. Great empires have risen and fallen amongst the basins of the Ganges, Indus and Yellow Rivers and could easily accommodate a speck like me. 

Girls at Verokey Cheema School in Pakistan

Girls at Verokey Cheema School in Pakistan

"As 2004 galloped along, it became glaringly obvious to me that just as the few had prospered during the heyday of the Silk Road at the cost of the many, so today was no different. India, Pakistan and China together contribute 600 million illiterate people to the world in a perpetual cycle of grinding poverty.

"Research in the field proved ActionAid International had the guts and the record to tackle such problems head on and their guiding light has led this ride from then on. Most importantly, they worked across the length and breadth of Asia and in the critically poor areas of India, Pakistan and China I was hoping to help.

"Great empires have risen and fallen amongst the basins of the Ganges, Indus and Yellow Rivers and could easily accommodate a speck like me."

Stephen on his impact on the Silk Road

"R4E is a 10,000km ride across these countries to raise £100,000 for the ActionAid International teams who work in each one. Fate curries few favours and across India and Pakistan, it’s been a bumpy ride through hostile borders and devastating earthquakes.

"Now in 2007, the final push to Beijing has arrived, across 8000km of wasteland amidst China’s Gobi desert providing a glimpse of the Silk Road in the 21st Century. Visiting schools shows their problems and reveals their solutions. Life must be given a chance.

"From Bolton to the Silk Road; there’s still a long way to go, but with enough challenges behind me, the rest should be walk in the park, shouldn’t it?"

Stephen will be sending updates of his progress along the final leg of his journey in the coming months.

last updated: 02/07/07

You are in: Manchester > Features > People > Saddled with responsibility

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