Focused On Combating Social Isolation Among The Elderly - One Trishaw Ride At A Time!
Updated: Apr 19
Social responsibility is something many of us neglect as we get too caught up in our busy lives, understandably. But, this is not the case for Marieke Bink. To have a purposeful life that adds value to society is what led this feisty lady to take helm of Cycling Without Age Singapore, a charity organisation, in late 2016.
Marieke’s journey to finding herself on a trishaw actually started when she moved from the Netherlands to Denmark in 2014 with her husband. During her 2 challenging years in Denmark, she felt left out by society even though she tried hard to fit into the culture while working hard to build her career.
“At that time, I struggled to connect with the society I was in. I felt very lonely and was quite depressed. I was missing a purpose in life.” she recollects.
So, the family packed their bags and decided to pick up a new assignment in Singapore. In the process of moving to Singapore, Marieke got to know of this movement called Cycling Without Age. Founded in Denmark by Ole Kassow in 2012, his goal was to offer recreational mobility to seniors in the form of volunteer-piloted trishaw rides.
And this lighted up hope in Marieke. She tells me, “Hearing about seniors being taken on trishaw rides as a way to combat social isolation and loneliness was something that resonated deeply with me. I saw an opportunity to lift the spirits of these seniors in a way that I wished someone did for me when I was struggling.”
When Marieke got to Singapore, she met up with Pernille Vederso Bussone, who brought the first trishaw and initiative to Singapore. Pernille unfortunately had to return back to Denmark and because of that, Marieke decided to take over caring for this one trishaw and keeping this fledgling movement going.
It was a rocky start according to Marieke. Fortunately, she met several like-minded individuals who shares her beliefs that a trishaw experience can bridge the gap between seniors and the community.
They then formed a board to legalise their presence in Singapore. In 2018, Cycling Without Age Singapore grew to become a charity and in November 2019, they attained IPC status!
Three words that best describes Cycling Without Age Singapore. Connections, Innovative, Without Age.
What constraints the charity movement? FUNDING! To keep trishaws riding, organise rides and train more volunteers.
If you can travel back in time, what is 1 thing you would have done differently? In the last two years, we grew from 75 volunteers to 840 volunteers. As a grassroots organisation with barely any funds, we should have looked more closely into our volunteer strategy as training and volunteer management cost a lot of time and thus, money. Hard as it would have been to do so, I would have put a cap on the volunteers we could take in, so we would not feel such a pinch on operating costs now.
What do you do in your free time? I love to travel and explore the world... unfortunately I don't have much time nowadays. When I really have time, I want to read.
If you have all the money in the world, what would you do? The first thing I would do is pay off my mortgage! And I would pay my staff regular salaries (so I could take a holiday & give my daughters a diving course that they really want!) and buy more trishaws - if LTA permits. ;-)
I would also buy a transport vehicle for the trishaws so we don't have to spend so much to transport them and so I can give more seniors around Singapore a free trishaw ride!
What will you be doing if you are not doing what you do now? I would probably be working in the healthcare area, or if I couldn't find a job, worst case would be I would be at home, depressed, or back in the Netherlands!
Advice for budding entrepreneurs who want to make a social impact. Find partners who also want to create impact and believe in what you believe in... because 1 + 1 = 3!
And what would you write to your future 80-yo self? Keep on riding! ♥
Through specially designed trishaws, trained volunteers take the elderly out for a leisure ride. Not only does this remove mobility restrictions faced by the elderly, they can also experience the outdoors in a fun way and get to interact with the volunteers by telling their life stories. Their vision is to have a world in which no senior faces social isolation and has the opportunity to feel the wind in their hair.
Although this philanthropic journey is time-consuming and challenging, Marieke stands rooted in her goal to find meaning in life and to contribute to society.
“Keep on dreaming! If we're not dreaming, then the future will not mean anything, it will not be bright!”
If helping the elderly combat loneliness and adding some joy to their lives strike a chord with you, Cycling Without Age Singapore would greatly appreciate your contribution through donations or being a volunteer .
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