How do you bring more than 50 people together, raise funds for a good cause, put in a huge, shared physical challenge and with all that, eventually support refugee and migrant communities through free education? The answer is surprisingly simple: through cycling.

On Saturday the 13th of July, we organised the first edition of the MigraCode Gran Fondo Cycling Fundraiser, a cycling event in which 27 sports enthusiasts together cycled more than 4000 kilometers in one day, while climbing more than 72.000 meters in total. 

Each individual participant, from all ages, genders, nationalities and backgrounds (including MigraCode students and volunteers), was asked to choose one of the possible 3 routes to ride. The choice between 90km, 130km and 220km allowed all sorts of cyclists to join, based on their experience and fitness level. 

Participants were also asked to register at GoFundMe, which allowed them to share their upcoming effort with friends, family and colleagues, who in turn could donate on the fundraiser page to support the huge challenge they were taking on.

The raised funds were going directly to our program, which would enable us to plan our next cohort of students starting at the end of 2021. In other words, because of the great effort by all participants through fundraising and cycling, more than 16 students would be able to follow our program with the aim to find high-quality jobs for them in the tech sector.

Like the fundraising process (in total we raised around 7000 euros), the event itself was also a great success. Many of the participants and the supporting volunteers stayed at a nice campsite near Ripoll, the start point of all routes and the gate to the Catalan Pyrenees. This included a huge part of the team of Adaptive Financial Consulting, who not only is one of our amazing hiring partners, but also offered extremely useful (car) support during the event.

From the camp side, at 5:30 in the morning, a few volunteers and some of the staff of Open Cultural Center headed to the start point to set up the registration and prepare the arrival of all the participants. A bit later, the first cyclists arrived and were given energy bars and water. And, just as important, almost all of them were able to receive the official MigraCode Gran Fondo cycling jersey, made possible by our partner Global {M}

At 7:00, after a short thank you speech of program manager and event participant Vincent van Grondelle, the cyclist set-off to ride 90, 130 or 220 kilometer straight through the impressive and memorable mountains of the Pyrenees. In the first 30 minutes the cyclists stayed together, but later on small groups broke up our MigraCode peloton and continued riding together for the rest of the event.

The Catalan Pyrenees are not only magnificently beautiful, but they are also leg-killers: steep, long climbs challenged each and every single participant, no matter how trained they were. From the 90km group to the 220km group, they all had to battle hundreds and even thousands of meters of climbing.

However, in the afternoon, the first cyclist showed up at the finish back in Ripoll – tired, broken and worn out, but also fulfilled, proud and happy! More and more finishers came in, and our volunteers did a great job in supporting all of them with the recovery. Especially our volunteer physiotherapist (and MigraCode graduate) Bips proved to be essential support, as she offered massages and other necessary medical treatments. 

At the same time, for some cyclists, Ripoll was not (yet) the final village they would see. They ‘only’ did about 130km of their route, with still 90km remaining to complete their route completely. And probably even more important, they still had to battle Vallter 2000: the highest paved road of Catalunya. 

They suffered. They stopped. They continued. They were challenged to their maximum capacity and they almost quit. But in the end, all of them conquered the last summit of their challenge, and arrived safely back at the camp site between 6 and 8 in the evening, where all the other volunteers and participants gave them a warm welcome.

In the evening, a BBQ was organised to celebrate the successes of each individual participant (with safe distance and loads of disinfection gel) and to thank all the people who joined the event.

Looking back, we have been extremely honoured to have received so many motivated people – both volunteers and participants – to make this event come true, while creating awareness about our program and gathering enough finances to almost sponsor a full new MigraCode course.

On behalf of our program manager Vincent van Grondelle and Open Cultural Center (the parent organisation of MigraCode), we want to thank:

  • Marcel, for working so incredible hard to manage the event day itself and be the main contact person;
  • Estefania, Pierre and the rest of the Adaptive team, for riding with us and supporting the event;
  • Nick and his company Global {M}, for going above and beyond to also finish the 220km and at the same time sponsor the wonderful cycling jerseys;
  • The whole OCC team: Agnes, Charlotte, Marta, Maria Jose, Bips, Joana, Anandamaya, Ali, Diana and Yogi – also with helping to organise this event;
  • All the other volunteers that supported us during this event;
  • All the donors who made financial contributions and further shared our fundraiser;
  • And of course all the participants who accomplished something amazing together.

Soon we will provide more information on next year’s event – stay tuned!

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