Dream Spinners

By Ashwin Subramaniam and Yasmine Khater, who co-founded The Gone Cyclin’ Initiative.

Gone Cyclin’ Initiative founders Ashwin and Yasmine embarked on a grueling 11-month journey to transport an idea to its final destination: funds to support women weavers and craftsmakers in Timor-Leste.

The Idea: end of 2009

Ashwin sees a documentary on the first Tour de Timor, a 410-km bike race through rugged and beautiful mountainous terrain. Struck by the hope of the Timorese people and the germ of an idea, Ashwin aims to participate in the next Tour in September 2011.

Collaboration and Creation: February 2010

Enroute to a climb of Mount Ophir in Malaysia, Yasmine discovers that Ashwin is in the same travel group.

“On the bus ride, he told me about the race. I loved the idea of giving back to society. When we got back, we organised a meeting with friends and the idea just grew. By the end of the brainstorming, we had formed a team and the concept of The Gone Cyclin’ Initiative – to take on sports and adventure challenges around the world to raise awareness and funds for sustainability.”

The simple act of sharing the idea begins to make the cause a reality, and gives it force and momentum.

Transformation: March – August 2010

Co-founder Grace Chen and Ashwin work to find a beneficiary Timorese NGO and an organizational partner in Singapore to support the fund-raising logistics. Using the UN Integrated Mission for Timor-Leste list of Timor-based NGOs, Ashwin and Grace research each of the 315 organisations, finally choosing Timor Aid as beneficiary.

This is the first leg of an uphill climb for the Gone Cyclin’ Initiative as fund-raising in Singapore is regulated by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. Not a single dollar can be raised without a permit.

“We approached 15 different organisations in Singapore for support, and got 15 rejections. This was the toughest challenge for us – more painful, more intense and more heart-wrenching than the brutality of that race through the mountains of Timor. But the rejections only deepened our conviction. The 16th knock is on the door of Rotary Club of Bukit Timah whose members instantly recognise the team’s potential. They adopt The Gone Cyclin’ Initiative as their full-fledged project, offering backing for the fund-raising logistics, and support for all future projects.

Empowerment: March -August 2010

As inexperienced cyclists facing the world’s toughest mountain bike race, the group undergoes a training program with cycling experts. This involves weekly gym sessions and long-distance cycling trips in Malaysia.

“We set off in the midst of holiday traffic through the crazy, crowded highways of Johor. I was terrified. I was not in shape, the hills were torturous, and the heat was outrageous. I wanted to go home. Then we met a stranger along the way who shared his story and taught me the value of perseverance. Any challenge will be tough. Initially you may need to get off your bicycle and push it up the hill but eventually, it will get easier.”

IMPACT: September 2010

With the support of Rotary Club of Bukit Timah, the Gone Cyclin’ Initiative pulls in five corporate sponsors including Air Timor, and over 120 individual supporters. A documentary, “Spinning Dreams” captures every moment of the Gone Cyclin’ team’s epic journey from start to finish line, while raising awareness of the rugged beauty of Timor and its culture, and the resilience and hope of its people.

“Our supporters, sponsors and contributors made it possible for us to help preserve a dying weaving art form – an integral part of Timorese and world culture; inspired support from hundreds of people, and raised over SGD 20,000 for 360 women weavers and craft-workers. We’re now gearing up for more projects in 2011 in other under-developed and developing countries.”

“The name Gone Cyclin’ inspires young people not just to speak but to think in the past tense of what they’ve accomplished. We want them to realise that even though we are young, we can make a difference”