by Matt Crook
2011 was a rough year for Aussie Monique Senior. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a little before her daughter Harper’s first birthday and spent the rest of the year receiving treatment while trying to maintain some semblance of normality in her life. But today, the 40-year-old mum has beaten breast cancer and is ready for a new challenge – one that she has full control over.
In March 2013, Monique will cycle 450 kilometres from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Siem Reap in Cambodia. The route has been carefully mapped out by the Australian fundraising arm of Plan International, a global child-centred development agency. The ride, which will take eight days to complete, is part of Plan Australia’s Cycle For Girls challenge to raise funds for Because I am a Girl, Plan’s global campaign for girls’ rights.
“I have not done anything like this before,” says Monique. “By signing up to do it I am signing up to a physical challenge that I must be prepared for and that will push me, but it’s also a fundraising challenge that takes a lot of thought and organisation and involves my family and friends.”
Monique has her sights set on raising A$5,000 for the cause, a goal she believes her new outlook on life since beating breast cancer will help her achieve.
“I am more likely to say ‘Yes’ to new things now, to embrace life more, to be more open to change. A terrific, new part of my life is my little girl who was just turning one when I was diagnosed. Life is different because of her being here also.”
As Monique was only an occasional cyclist before she took on the Cycle For Girls, she’s been building up her rides gradually, hitting the roads come rain or shine, often with Harper joining her for moral support in a trailer attached to the back of the bike.
“I try not to be too daunted by unfavourable conditions like wind and heat and get out there in them as part of the preparation. I do tai chi and this is quite good for leg strength. Choosing to walk or ride instead of driving the car are better options when possible,” she adds.
Cycle For Girls was a natural fit for Monique, a long-time sponsor of children Plan works with, as it focuses on giving girls, who are more likely to miss out on education than boys, the opportunities they need to reach their full potential.
“It’s great to see the Because I am a Girl campaign come about and feel that it is a strong campaign that will promote change for the better,” she says.
Globally, a third of girls are denied the secondary education that can be the key to breaking the cycle of poverty for them and their families, says Lani Masuku, Plan Australia’s community giving manager.
“All too often, girls in developing countries are expected to fulfill the role of wife, mother and home-maker. This can manifest in the form of child marriage and early pregnancy long before their bodies and minds are fully developed,” she adds.
The route along Vietnam’s Mekong Delta into Cambodia will see Monique and her 31cycling buddies visit villages where Plan works directly with children and their families.
“I’m excited,” says Monique. “I have not been to Vietnam or Cambodia before and will enjoy travelling through them on the bike and seeing what they are like, learning about the places and meeting the people.”