In June of 2016, three members of Seattle Pacific University’s Bike Club, Barrett Estep, Garrett Berkey and Kelsey Lucido, joined the World Relief SEA-TRI-KAN cycling ride, embarking on a five-day journey where they rode 400-miles through the state of Washington. And the club plans to participate again.
The purpose of the ride was for cyclists to raise money for United States refugee resettlements and employment and the bikers campaigned to professors, friends, families and churches.
According to junior Garrett Berkey, Bike Club’s Chief Financial Officer and participant of SEA-TRI-KAN 2016, World Relief raised over $30,000 through the event.
Barrett Estep, who is the Bike Club President, was also a participant of SEA-TRI-KAN.
Looking back on the event and the process of reaching it, he notes that campaigning and raising money were challenging aspects. He said, “At that point, there was not such a political crisis surrounding the idea of refugees, so it was a lot harder to get people to engage in [donations].”
Berkey also said that “the donations were double matched, and all of the time spent riding was matched through a federal grant of volunteer hours.”
Campaigning was not the only preparation they needed for the 400-mile ride.
In regard to their training, Estep said, “I don’t think we did official training rides over 50 miles, which was questionable judgement, because each day on [SEA-TRI-KAN] was about 90 to 100 miles.”
Even though the participants had lacked proper training before the ride, they found that it was comfortable to keep up.
“Once you have other people riding with you, you can go way farther than what your body would normally allow,” Estep said.
During SEA-TRI-KAN, Berkey was surprised “to have such a great community of other cyclists.”
He saw that the spectrum of cyclists ranged from professionally trained athletes to amateurs.
“We were all thrown in together,” he said. “It’s amazing to meet that many people and have a great time.”
The participants were also able to hear the stories of refugees, and Berkey recalled a particular narrative about a woman from Afghanistan that stuck.
“We were able to empathize with real people,” he said. “Riding your bike allows a lot of time to think, and the story [about the Afghani woman] really sunk in.”
Berkey also volunteered with World Relief, apart from the SEA-TRI-KAN event, and he talked about how his experience with the organization gave him a framework to understand the refugee crisis and how the Trump Administration is managing the issue.
“We got to ride with a refugee who was from the Republic of Congo, and hearing his story made me realize that [refugees] are just people.”
Berkey talked about the strong vetting system of United States immigration and the pain that comes alongside the way the government is approaching the refugee crisis. SEA-TRI-KAN built community through the members’ shared love for cycling and their drive for social change in areas such as the acceptance of refugees.
Community is a focus, too, for SPU Bike Club. Bike Club Programmer and senior Elise Bishhoff is a commuter who cycles to SPU.
“[Bike Club] made me be able to get to know other people that I don’t think I otherwise would have gotten to know,” Bishoff said. “I was able to bike with a big group of people, and it got me excited about biking.”
Bike Club meets every Saturday to go on rides and stops at local coffee shops afterward to have conversations. They post their rides on their Facebook page.