A mission to save orphans? You can call it remarkable, or even heroic, perhaps?
On June 1, Singapore representative for this incredible mission – Borong Tsai – chose to forgo his summer holidays for a larger purpose.
Normally, Borong likes to play music and draw, but this summer, he and 29 other teens from over 10 countries banded together for Ride2Freedom, a 3,000-mile (4,828 km) cross-country bike ride across the United States to raise awareness of the persecution of Falun Gong in China and to rescue five orphans whose parents were killed due to the persecution, ongoing since 1999.
As of July 17, the team has finally reached their destination, Washington D.C., and hopes to engage President Obama. But the most harrowing part of the journey is yet to come. The group will select a few riders to fly to China to rescue the orphans.
Like his 29 peers, the 15-year-old practises Falun Gong, a spiritual belief that incorporates meditative exercises and adheres to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
For Borong, the hardest part of this journey was going through the Rockies. “Because I come from sea level, we were in 8,000 feet of elevation and I almost fainted,” he says.
Hi Borong, can you tell us more about yourself?
I am Borong Tsai, I am 15 this year, and I am representing Singapore in the Ride2Freedom project. I enjoy drawing and designing aircraft, reading science fiction and history, and I play three instruments: the violin, piano, and guzheng, a Chinese instrument similar to the western zither.
I grow up in the US. My parents have lived in the US for 20 years. However, I have visited my grandparents in Singapore several times. In Singapore, I have met many people who support Falun Gong and human rights. I want to represent these kind people in Ride2Freedom.
Why did you join this event? Do you need a lot of courage to join this mission?
I joined this project because I have always wanted to help these orphans. These children we are trying to bring back are around my age. Everyone should have the freedom of belief. These orphans are denied their right to a normal life simply because of their belief.
Living in America, I have the freedom to do a lot of things: I can practise Falun Gong, I can play traditional Chinese music, I can learn classical Chinese dance, etc. However, in China today, one can be arrested or killed for meditating.
I know it will not be easy, but I am determined to do what I can for these orphans.
Tell us about the 29 other heroes of this mission. How is it like spending your days with the 29 other participants?
The other riders come from all over the world and are great people to be together in a team. We have representatives from Argentina, Africa, Germany, India, United States, Hong Kong, Iran, France, Austria, China, Hungary, Israel, and of course, Singapore. The youngest rider representing Hong Kong is 11 years old and the eldest is 25.
Working together as a team with so many people with such different backgrounds has been one of the best experiences. We divide the chores: some of us make breakfast, some maintain the bikes, some pack the vehicles, and some check everyone’s equipment. We are all specialised in our job, and it makes the whole team have a sense of togetherness.
During and after our riding shifts, we help each other fix bikes or pass food and water. In our free time, we tell stories by the campfire, study the Fa, play sports, and make music with our instruments we brought on this trip.
What are people’s reactions along the journey? Any interesting encounter?
People react differently. There are those who immediately support us, those who ignore us, and those who reject our project totally.
We were lucky to encounter three policemen, who went beyond their duty to escort us along a busy highway after we informed them of our project. One even invited us to his house for cold drinks.
Some Chinese tourists, on the other hand, were not able to comprehend our mission. Once, in Las Vegas, a man who claimed to be a “Wudang Qigong master” even shouted at us for a long time. He was so full of hate and fear that I felt pity for him.
Do your family, teachers and friends support you?
My entire family supports me. All my teachers and friends are also very supportive. Many of my friends supported our media campaign with their selfies tagged with #ride2freedom.
My teachers allowed me to complete my schoolwork in advance and excused me from some work. I am also very grateful to the principals for letting me make up time in the summer so I can begin the ride in Los Angeles.
Will you be flying to China for the mission? Will the mission be achieved?
At the moment, no one knows who will be flying to China, as only a select team will be chosen when we reach Washington D.C. and meet with President Obama.
The mission of this project is to raise awareness about the brutal persecution of Falun Gong in China, especially calling attention to the plight of children in this persecution. Whether I am going to China or not, I believe we have spoken for these children. Our mission will be successful.
As a Singaporean, what message do you want to share with people back in your homeland?
Singapore has many problems of her own, but that should not stop us from helping others. After all, we are all humans.
– Borong Tsai, Ride2Freedom Ambassador from Singapore
Our efforts may seem small, but together, we can make a difference. Singapore is a small country, but it doesn’t mean we have to think small.
And yes, Singapore has many problems of her own, but that should not stop us from helping others. After all, we are all humans, and according to John Locke, the philosopher that inspired America’s Constitution, “all men are created equal”, and we have the “freedom of belief”, the “freedom of speech”, and the “freedom to (the) pursuit of happiness”.
We can change the world if we work together.
For more information about Ride2Freedom, visit http://www.ride2freedom.org/