I have known Detta Regan since I was youth club member at 13 years old. I went on her first youth exchange in 1980 to Rotterdam aged 14 and on 10 other youth exchanges around Europe during the 80s. I then worked as a Youth Worker at her Community Centre for 13 years. 

Over the years I had stayed in contact with Detta, when in 2005 she invited me to a fund raising pamper evening, to help raise funds for the Follow The Women bike ride. I went to the pamper evening had my nails done and had a glass of wine. One of the UK team had dropped out at the last minute and I was convinced by Detta to join them. So with only 3 weeks to go I organised time off work, child care, new passport, visa etc.   So from innocently attending a fund raising event I was suddenly part of the organisation.

My parents were in Majorca at the time and had read an article about a group of local women in Majorca, who were raising money to attend FTW 2005 bike ride through the Middle East and had noticed Detta Regan’s name. When they arrived home I informed them that I was going on the bike ride, which they were not very happy about. As a single parent with a young child they thought I was crazy to go to that part of the world and on a bike!

My first FTW bike ride in 2005 was mind blowing as I had never been to the Middle East before with all the sights, sounds, smells and culture differences. Also, to learn and start to understand the history of the conflicts in the hosting countries and region was a huge learning curve for me. The welcome that we received from the local people was heart-warming and the personal stories and friendships that I made with the other women on the ride has stayed with me for many years.

So I had caught the ‘FTW bug’ and have been on the 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 bike rides since. To help the organisation move forward I was part of the project team in the UK who pushed achieved charity status in 2008. Since that time I have been a Trustee and also handle all the FTW finances as Treasurer for FTW.

FTW has changed my life and continues to be a huge influence. So be warned!!

Shirley Clarke

Reading, UK