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Cross-country tricyclist tours through Creston

Tana Silverland is cycling across Canada to raise awareness for SOS Children’s Villages. - Marilin States photo
Tana Silverland is cycling across Canada to raise awareness for SOS Children’s Villages.
— image credit: Marilin States photo

Tana Silverland and the term “kindness of strangers” seem closely intertwined. The transplanted Briton is zigzagging her way across Canada (mostly on a recumbent tricycle) “to see more of this wonderful country and to raise awareness of SOS Children’s Villages”.

Along the way she is being provided bed and board by a network of volunteers — the kindness of strangers. Her inspiration to raise awareness for SOS Children’s Villages came from a time when she volunteered at one in Great Britain and witnessed the remarkable efforts by staff and volunteers to provide a healthy, happy home for foster children. Again, the kindness of strangers.

SOS Children’s Villages, according to www.sos-childrensvillages.org, “is an international non-governmental social development organization that has been active in the field of children's rights and committed to children's needs and concerns since 1949. In 132 countries and territories our activities focus on children without parental care and children of families in difficult circumstances.

“SOS Children’s Villages focuses on family-based, long-term care of children who can no longer grow up with their biological families. At our SOS Children’s Villages and SOS Youth Facilities they experience reliable relationships and love once again, meaning that they can recover from what they have experienced, which has often been traumatic. They grow up in a stable family environment, and are supported individually until they become independent young adults.”

“The organization has such a low profile in Canada,” Silverland (her friends call her Silver) said on April 23. “It deserves so much more — it makes a huge difference to children all over the world.”

In fact, B.C. is home to Canada’s only SOS Children’s Village. A cluster of five large, beautiful homes in Surrey provides a sense of community, connection and belonging for the children who reside there.

Silverland is not collecting donations, but asking people who are interested to visit the international or B.C. (www.sos-bc.org) websites, where they can learn more about the organization and make donations.

“The fundraising aspect of this trip is not about me — I’m not collecting money and any donations made are not tied to me in any way,” she said. “The work these people do speaks for itself.”

Silverland is motivated by more than her favourite charity and a desire to see the country. She spent a decade as a very ill young woman and for two years she was unable to even walk. A diagnosis was never made and it was sheer willpower, she said, that fueled her recovery.

From her position as she pedals her recumbent tricycle, she gets a great view of her surroundings.

“The tricycle allows me to look around and up,” she explained. “On a bicycle one tends to look downward and it is an effort to lift up one’s head and look all around.”

Silverland has allowed herself two or three years to pedal around Canada.

“That’s allowing for some time off in the winter when it is just too difficult and dangerous to travel on the highways,” she said.

Last winter, she made some bus trips around the B.C. Interior to see more of the sights.

And she’s not making a beeline from shore to shore. She started out last year in Whitehorse and made her way south to the Lower Mainland. This spring she started up on March 21, travelling through Southern B.C. From Creston she was heading along Highway 3 through Cranbrook, Fernie, Sparwood and the Crowsnest Pass to Lethbridge, from which she will head north and west again.

“I’m going to travel up to Peace River Country via Drumheller, then back down through Jasper. That part is for me — I really want to see the country around Jasper.”

Uncertain of her future, Silverland said her travels will give her an opportunity to decide where she wants to live and what she wants to work at.

“I’ve been quite deliberate in keeping an open mind for future career options,” said the one-time university administrator.

Asked about highlights of her trip so far, Silverland quickly named several.

“The trip over the Nancy Greene and Blueberry-Paulsen passes when it was snowing was actually quite an experience,” she said. “And in one place I stopped, I was staying on a farm when a baby goat was born. They named it after me — it was almost entirely silver!

“And I’ve been asked for my autograph by a gaggle of schoolchildren in Crawford Bay!”

Silverland first came to Canada on a holiday 15 years ago.

“I just fell in love with the place,” she said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Now she is averaging about 100 kilometres a day when she travels, grateful for her health recovery, thrilled to spread the message about SOS Children’s Villages and learning to love her adopted country by seeing it close up.

“I set out each day with optimism and waterproof clothing,” she laughed.

Readers can follow Silverland’s travels at tanasilverland.wordpress.com.

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