A French resident whose 21-year-old friend died last year from drug addiction complications is, along with more than 40 others, cycling a total of 12,000km in a bid to raise £12,000 to pay for a place for someone on a drug rehabilitation programme.
Phoebe Cox, 22, who lives in Deux-Sèvres, said her and her friends were shocked when their close friend Sebastian Kelly died in August last year.
She told The Connexion that they wanted to channel their grief into something positive.
“Seb had been struggling with addiction for years but he was training to be a counsellor so that he could help other people.
“Even though his addiction took him from us, we didn’t want it to take away the impact he could have had on the world. It felt so unfair.
“He was such a big character, it didn’t seem right that his life was just over.
“My friends and I thought we would do something small, something sporty, to try to work through our grief.
“We took the idea to Seb’s parents who were totally onboard. They actually suggested that we aim big and try to fund one person through a full addiction recovery programme.
“They know how expensive it can be and quite often people recovering from addiction will be in and out of rehab a few times. It can be hard to afford that over and over again.”
The friends found Yeldall Manor, an addiction recovery centre near Reading in the UK that for over 40 years has helped men overcome serious drug or alcohol addictions.
“It costs £12,000 to put someone through the two-year programme,” Ms Cox said. “We thought that to raise that kind of money we would have to do something significant.”
Ms Cox and her friends first met Mr Kelly in Singapore, where they lived and went to school for several years. They realised that the distance between Singapore and where Mr Kelly was from in Henley-on-Thames in the UK was almost 12,000km.
That is when they come up with the idea of a virtual bike ride.
You can see more details on the Bike4Bast Fundraiser here.
You can join from anywhere in the world
The idea of the virtual bike ride is that anyone in the world can participate.
You set out on your bike for a ride and then log your distance on a website set up by Ms Cox and her friends.
So far, 45 people have contributed kilometres to the mission.
They have cycled a combined total of 8,210 km, roughly the distance between Singapore and Greece, as the crow flies, raising over £7,000.
“Anyone can get involved anywhere they are. We just ask that everyone tries to raise £1 per kilometre then we can hit our target,” Ms Cox said.
“The idea is also to raise awareness about drug addiction all around the world, to show that addiction travels with a person.
“Drug addiction is talked about more in the UK, but among young people they are still often seen as a really blasé thing. I think it’s important for people to see there is a really serious side to it and you can lose someone.
“In Singapore it is really important for us because drug addiction is not talked about there, it’s taboo.”
They started the mission on May 1 and have set a finishing date of August 1, one year on from Mr Kelly’s death.
“We have already done over 8,000km so I think it might finish before our allocated time,” Ms Cox said.
“If we reach 12,000km and haven’t hit the target for money we’re just going to keep on cycling.”
Ms Cox said that her friend Sebastian did not seem like most people’s stereotypical idea of a drug addict.
“Seb was so funny. He’d always make you laugh even at the most inappropriate times. He was also that person who would bring everyone in the group together.
“He was so caring and always the first person to make sure you were okay. Even through everything he was going through.
“There is a stereotypical idea of an addict and what that looks like and you would never know with Seb how much he was struggling.
“He’d be okay for a time and then he’d use very heavily in a destructive way. He hated it and he just wanted to be able to recover properly and go on to help other people.
“It was difficult when we lost him to think that he can never do that. He would have been a good counsellor.
Cycling in France
Ms Cox works part time as a refugee aid worker for a charity based in France called Care4Calais and is also a psychology student.
She moved to France in 2020.
“I love France, it has been fantastic so far.
“It’s brilliant for cycling. I moved here from London where I didn’t get to cycle much because I was terrified I’d get hit by a bus.
“It has been lovely to see where I live in a different way. With the lockdowns I didn’t have a chance to get out for much more than a walk.
“Now I do something I call ‘chateau spotting’. I’ll go out for a cycle in any direction and see how many chateaux I can spot along the way.”