“Paddlers with a Purpose” donates $10,000 to Dara’s Feeding Program

Funds which were solicited through the efforts of a trio of philanthropic high-school students who took part in the 2015 Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge were today donated to a well-known feeding program that benefits over 40 underprivileged primary school students in Belize City.

Despite a lack of experience and limited preparation, the team of ambitious amateur paddlers daringly set out to compete in the grueling 175-mile yearly race, which started on the banks of the Macal River in San Ignacio Town, Cayo, last Friday, March 6, and ended at the Belcan Bridge in Belize City on March 9.

While most teams entered the popular 4-day canoe race to battle for the prizes and bragging rights, the mission of the “Paddlers with a Purpose” – as they were dubbed – was to garner much-needed financial assistance to aid Joel “Dara” Robinson in his battle against the starvation that is pervasive amongst schoolchildren in his community.

The three teenagers – Mayank Chawla, 15, a 3rd former from Belize High School; Kyle Encalada, 18, a 4th former from Saint John’s College (SJC); and Richard Khatwani, 16, who is also in 4th form at SJC – told Amandala today that their noble effort was a strenuous but humbling learning experience.

“It was hard at first, so it took a lot of strength and willpower for us [to stay in the race]. It tested our ability to work as a team for the 4 days and 175 miles because we were constantly communicating and encouraging each other to finish the race”, recounted Chawla.

The competition is split in four stages and comprised of 57 teams, each with three paddlers.

Chawla told us the hardest part of the race for them was the start-off because their canoe was lined up at the tail, and was therefore affected by the turbulence that was created by the participants that were ahead of them.

He added that the race was even more challenging because the team, which was in the intramural category, had only undergone one week of preparations prior to the competition. “We felt a bit intimidated at first, but afterwards, we stuck together and finished the race because we knew that it was for a rightful cause”, the team leader explained.

The “Paddlers with a Purpose” managed to raise a total of $8,000 to donate to Dara’s Feeding Program, and according to Robinson, Mayank’s father, Jack Chawla – who is the owner of RC Imports and the one who came up with the idea to assist with the program – contributed an additional $2,000.

Robinson – who noted that this is one of the most significant donations that he has received since initiating the feeding program – mentioned that he is “more than grateful” for the assistance, which will allow him to be able to procure provisions to maintain the program for over five months.

“I do my fundraising efforts every 6 months, and with the amount of things you have to go through sometimes, it is things like this that really help to encourage and push you because this way, I will have the finance to get my stuff and do what I need to do, and I’m grateful,” Dara emphasized.