Laurie Baxter

Charity

MAG
MAG (Mines Advisory Group) is a neutral and impartial humanitarian organisation clearing the remnants of conflict for the benefit of communities worldwide. MAG is co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded for its work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which culminated in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty - the international agreement that bans anti-personnel landmines, sometimes referred to as the Ottawa Convention. MAG moves into current and former conflict zones to clear the remnants of those conflicts, enabling recovery and assisting the development of affected populations. MAG consults with local communities and works to lessen the threat of death and injury, while releasing reclaimed and safe land and other vital resources back to the local population, helping countries to rebuild and develop their social and economic potential. MAG has worked in around 35 countries since 1989 and currently has operations in Angola, Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, Colombia, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gaza, Iraq, Jordan, Lao P.D.R., Lebanon, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Vietnam. MAG's objectives - To save lives and build futures by implementing innovative solutions for conflict-affected communities. - To enable governments and institutions to address the needs of conflict-affected communities through funding MAG’s activities. - To work with partners who share our impact-driven approach to enable people to escape from poverty caused by conflict. - To create awareness and secure public contributions to help us to provide an effective response to the wider problems caused by the presence of remnants of conflict. To reach our overall objective of saving lives and building futures, MAG’s approach is progressive, enabling, responsive and impact-driven. MAG helps people affected by conflict by providing local know-how, physical clearance of remnants of conflict, education, training and employment of local people.
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Laurie's fundraising page

Fundraiser: 
Laurie Baxter

My page: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/laurie_baxter

Hello and thanks for visiting my site!

I've planned to cycle solo from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok this summer (July and August) and thought that this would be a fantastic opportunity to highlight a charity working in the region for donation. Distance wise, the ride will be between 1000 and 1500km (depending on the route), and I'm expecting to complete it in about a month.

A large proportion of my ride will be spent in Cambodia. In reading up on the country, I began to realise the extent and effects of landmines. The facts surrounding landmines in Cambodia are frankly horrific with casualties currently standing at around 300 a year (i.e nearly 1 a day!) and a total of 27,000 since 1992 as a result of either landmines or unexploded ordnances. This was all rather brought to life when my guidebook warned against straying from the road in many parts of the country, even to go to the toilet. 

However, for a country such as Cambodia, in which the majority of the population are reliant on agriculture for a living, having large swathes of land unavailable for planting or infrastructure is also a huge economic impediment.

Needless to say, I've chosen a charity specialising in the removal of landmines and unexploded ordnances. This charity, rather snappily named Mines Advisory Group (or MAG), is a global charity operating in more than 40 countries and deals with all manner of issues related to armed violence - all exceptionally commendable and worthy. (If you're interested in learning more about MAG they have a great website: http://www.maginternational.org/ ) 

(Just to be clear: I'm covering all my own expenses and Virgin Money Giving is a not for profit organisation; so all money donated here will go to my chosen charity, MAG (Mines Advisory Group). Gift aid will be collected for those eligible.)

Also, if you have any questions about donating/the trip/anything really, feel free to email me at lauriebaxter@live.co.uk.

I would massively appreciate all and any donations! (I'm not trying to reach any particular limit and don't have a recommended donation so just go wild :)

Thanks again,

Laurie

UPDATE, 22/07/2013 BELOW:

Hello folks!

It’s the 22/07/2013 and this update is brought to you from the medium-sized city of Battambang in eastern Cambodia. Interestingly, due to the often quite dodgy transliteration from Khmer to English it’s actually pronounced ‘Ba-tam-bong’, although you would be amazed, and, if you’re like me probably quite amused, by the variety of seemingly totally unlikely tourist-articulations of the name.

Anyway, this is a deviation and first and foremost I must say a huge thank you for the absolutely whopping amount raised so far! In all seriousness, I was expecting the grand total to be of the order of a couple of hundred pounds so to be well on the way to a thousand, with so many individual donors, is surprising and heartening for me and utterly life changing for those unfortunate enough to live in areas where unexploded ordnances are a daily risk.

Arriving on the 28th, I spent four nights in Ho Chi Minh City and then cycled south in the mekong area of Vietnam, My Tho - Can Tho – Rach Gia before crossing the border at Ha Tien. Ho Chi Minh was an incredible first experience of Asia; unbelievably hectic, fast paced and fun. It sometimes felt that at any one time more half the city’s 12 million citizens were wizzing around on motorbikes...so when I joined them ( - a local I met in a bar let me use her motorbike for free -  ) it took more than a little concentration to stay upright.

The days I spent cycling immediately after leaving Ho Chi Minh city were perhaps the most challenging of the holiday. I went almost immediately from university, to equally ultra-social dorm living in a hostel in HCMC, to single hotel rooms in relatively un-touristy destinations where English was rarely spoken at all. This, combined with acclimatising to the heat, the physical exertion of cycling for 6 hours a day and contending with the traffic leaving HCMC made for a real challenge in the opening few days.

The cycling in the south of Cambodia has been the highlight of the journey so far. Having crossed the Viet-Cambodian border at Ha Tien I cycled to Kampot – Takeo – Phnom Penh. The cycling between Ha Tien and Takeo was perhaps the most agricultural and generally undeveloped.

One item of particular delight to some of the more rural cambodians was my suncream. I don’t regularly see such singular delight as in the faces of the younger children when I put it on. Genuinely, if I were a stand-up comedian I could be making really great money out here with that ‘joke’ alone – it gets out-right laughs from the children and perplexed smiles from the adults. I can only think that the comedy comes from unusualness on top of unusualness. I remember when I was much younger laughing when I saw an otter juggling stones, so perhaps it’s a bit like that.

Well, it’s getting later and later here and I doubt I’ll have computer facilities in Pailin tomorrow so, to be concise: I spent 6 days in Phnom Penh (waiting for my Thai visa mainly), where I visited the killing fields and spent an inordinate amount of time swimming, sleeping or wandering around the city. I then cycled pretty relentlessly to Siem Reap, where, I was persuaded to wake up at 4am to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Although I suppose I have technically seen the sunrise, the sky in fact just grew gradually lighter. The early start did mean I had time to see some of the more remote temples, although it also meant that I spent half the time leaning against them eyelids drooping.

Finally, I realise words can’t paint pictures quite like pictures can so I will endeavor to make some available once I have the capacity to. This will probably be in Bangkok in around a week, maybe a week and a half.

Again, thanks for the donations, keep them coming!

Final Update, 07/08/2013

Hello all!

This will be the last from me, because, well... I'm finished! Technically I finished almost a week ago, but I caught a sleeper bus almost immediately to the Thai island of Koh Samui, where I am now, and since then, I'm ashamed to say, I've rather struggled to prize myself from the beach to finish this update.

So, I finished my last update in Battambang. From there I cycled to Pailin and then across the Cambodian-Thai border to Chanthaburi. These two rides, totalling about 150km got me happily across the Cardammon mountains which act as a sort of natural demarkation line.

These mountains aren't really like anything I've seen before. The whole range is formed of innumerable oddly regular semi-spherical mounds of varying size, covered entirely in grass or trees but never rocky. Of course the ground level also undulates but these close packed 'mounds' (I can't think of a better word) are certainly the distinctive feature and, perhaps why the mountains are known colloquially as the 'elephant mountains'.

My border crossing certainly added to the excitement of this other-worldly scenery. All was going smoothly until the border guard requested the address of my next residence. I tried in vain to explain that I would just find somewhere along the way but, after 10 minutes of building frustration on both sides I just ended up giving my next address as 'Hotel Chanthaburi, Chanthaburi'... not entirely sure he bought it but I'm here now.

Perhaps as some kind of karmic retribution for my deception I then had to cycle nearly 30km without food (I begged a bottle of water from a shop) before I finally reached a bank to withdraw Thai Baht. For whatever reason I'd assumed that like the Cambodians and the Vietnamese the dollar ran as a parrallel currency - not a mistake I will make again. 

On arrival to a flooded Chanthaburi I managed to wade through about 8 inches of water to my hostel, where I met my second cycle tourist! (The first being a spanish couple who seemed to have been cycling forever). Aiden from Australia. Handily also cycling to Bangkok we teamed up for the next two days riding - first to Ban Phe, a pretty beach town, and then to the truly hellish Pattaya.

I'm going to hazard a guess that some of you may have heard of Pattaya; it's notorious as centre for sex tourism. Sadly this seems to be a feature of a number of the tourist spots in Thailand but in Pattaya it was by far the most pronounced. I was just amazed to see the extent. Literally thousands of prostitutes and lady-boys line the streets in bars or hotels calling to you or grabbing your arm. Ex-pats hand in hand with women young enough to be their grandaughter outnumber regular tourists two to one and, weirdest of all no one seems to bat an eyelid - it's like it's all happening in a massive, twisted bubble.

As you can imagine I didn't end up staying long. I rode on from Pattaya to Chon Buri and then the final stretch to Bangkok. 

In true hollywood fashion my final stretch from Chon Buri to Bangkok was the most dramatic - at least in terms of the weather. Thunder, lightening and torrential rain. A proper tropical storm, all experienced from the number 3 highway with articulated lorries steaming past.

As Bangkok neared the traffic slowed, almost to walking pace. In fact, after a minute of waiting I began to copy the moto drivers, weaving in and out of the stationary traffic to make progress.

In this fashion I weaved and meandered, sometimes a bit lost, to my second cousin's house, who fortuitously lives in Bangkok and had offered me a bed. 

My plans are to travel on to the Thai Islands of Koh Phangnan and Koh Tao. Then from then to travel hours and hours north to Chiang Mai before returning to Bangkok for my flight home.

So, that really is it. I couldn't sum it up in a sentence so I won't try. 

A final huge thanks to all donors. 

Recent donors

18.10.13 Ali says: "Here, give him a fiver and well done!"

05.09.13

04.09.13 Your grandmother tells me wonderful things about you and your achievements!

29.08.13 Well done mate!

25.08.13 What a great adventure and helping a good cause too. Well done.

19.08.13 Well done!

14.08.13 Well done!

12.08.13 Well done Laurie, a massive adventure and all to a good cause!! love Dianne, Hester and Merlyn

06.08.13

05.08.13 Well done laurie. Get a move on and Good Luck!! matt

01.08.13 well done Laurie - really inspiring

27.07.13 Awesome trip, awesome cause. My daughter Claire was in Cambodia for a month last year and stayed in Battambang for much of that time. Kinda life-changing for her, and probably you too. Don't forget to eat a tarantula before you leave :)

27.07.13 Fantastic Laurie-Thunder Thighs-Baxter! What an amazing thing to do -thinking of you and wishing you all the best with the rest of your trip.Shortly gathering in Sandy Haven so we'll raise a toast!

25.07.13 Enjoy your journey, Laurie. This is a wonderful way to raise the profile of an important issue. Well done!

25.07.13 Hi Laurie the Brave Pedaller, Hope the derailleur's holding up. Good luck with the final stages. Love Rod and Sally

24.07.13 Wishing you good luck.

16.07.13 Well done Laurie, we're really impressed (and a little bit jealous...).

16.07.13 Sounds great Laurie, have an exciting time, Clare (landscape department)

16.07.13 Good luck Laurie. Granny Baxter

15.07.13 Well done Laurie, with best wishes from Flora (friend of your Grandma's)

15.07.13 Great work Laurie!

14.07.13 Good luck with all that pedalling Laurie - a really worthy cause

11.07.13 Hi Laurie What a good charity to support. Have a fantastic trip. Hope you meet lots of interesting people, see weird and wonderful things and have a great time. We look forward to seeing the photos. All the very best Jo, Simon, Sam and Katie

11.07.13 Any man biking from Saigon to Bangkok deserve a donation!!

09.07.13 That should be quite some adventure and great you are raising money for MAG - a real life-changer in the region.

£910.00

Running total

Total raised incl. Gift Aid:
£1,081.25
Total donors:
55
Last donor:
Ali and Clive
18.10.13  
Offline fundraising:
£0.00