Educated in Quaker schools, serving in the US Peace Corps for two years in Guatemala, and working 25 years as a middle school counsellor with migrant Mexican children, I was deeply interested in basic human rights for all people. When I read a short article in the September, 2008 Adventure Cyclist Magazine about bike riding with a mission, entitled “Pedal for Peace” I knew I had to participate. The article described the “Follow the Women: Pedal for Peace” organization founded by Detta Regan, as an international bike ride with teams of women participating from all over the world in an effort to help raise awareness for women and children in the Middle East and help them to have a voice in the peace process.

I immediately connected with my cycling friends. They were all equally intrigued, so I then contacted the US Country Coordinator, based on the East Coast.  As soon as we found out we could take part, our preparations began.  We took our planning very seriously and held regular sessions at our houses including inviting a PhD Professor to give us a slide presentation on the culture of the Middle East; we learned some emergency Arabic, and also had a psychologist give us a session on how to help each other deal with potential stressful situations.  Each session was followed by a fantastic Middle Eastern meal, just to ensure the palette was prepared as well.

One memorable moment for me from the bike ride was a conversation I had with 5 women in Syria who told me they had walked many hours from their small town to meet the women cyclists. One woman asked me (in English) where we were from. When I answered that we were 200 women from 28 different countries she gasped, and exclaimed, “The whole world is here!” She shared how delighted and appreciative her group was to meet me.

Since returning from the FTW bike ride I have given 12 presentations in California and Indiana as well as 1 presentation in Guatemala City.  I plan to give many more.

Betsy Schwartz 

Capitola, California