Interview with Rita Nehme, co-founder of Steer North charity

Fancy a cycling journey from Melbourne to Cairns? Ride for charity with Steer North, an organisation that promotes a healthy lifestyle and raises funds for cancer. Samantha Chew caught up with co-founder Rita Nehme to learn more.

Rita Nehme, and her partner, James Helal (centered) – the founders of Steer North. | Image by: Steer North

Family is at the heart of Steer North, as co-founder and executive director Rita Nehme will have you know.

Every year, her charitable organisation raises funds for cancer research and cancer patient care by way of cycling. Three routes are offered for those that wish to brave the trek: one from Melbourne to Sydney, another from Sydney to Brisbane and the longest journey, from Melbourne to Cairns. Along the way, riders support each other and just like any other family, nobody gets left behind.

Steer North’s cause is indeed noble and its ties to family go even deeper than bonding with cyclists she travels with.

“[My] partner and co-founder’s brother passed away from cancer so we decided to channel our energy towards something that’s positive and something that contributes to the community and we decided to bring this idea to motion to start working on it,” Rita revealed.

After participating in a charity bike ride in the US from Texas to Alaska as a former international student herself, Rita, together with her partner James Helal, harnessed their focus and founded Steer North.

The organisation has so far raised $120,000 dollars in charitable funds; funds that go towards the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in support of future and present victims of cancer. In addition, a part of the funds raised also go towards the Steer North Postgraduate Cancer Research Scholarship, in partnership with the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and the University of Melbourne.

Image by: SteerNorth

Although their rides often span for more than two weeks, training and workshops for cyclists are included just to ensure they are equipped for the journey. Essentially, anyone can join the cause from professional cyclists, those who have some cycling experience or total beginners. Those who wish to participate don’t need to know how to cycle as training beforehand prepare would-be cyclists for the journey in all aspects, from cycling skills to bike maintenance and cycling safety.

Training periods range from four weeks for the ride from Melbourne to Cairns and three weeks for the shorter rides. While it does not cost anything to participate in the ride, riders must fundraise $3,500 before they can begin the journey. Most of the time this is done as a team and Steer North provides resources, help and support for all riders to reach their goals.

For international students who wish to participate, the Steer North rides are an opportunity to make friends from all walks of life; to be a part of a community and gain insight into a wider Australia outside of the metropolitan areas. As a team, workshops on healthy living and bike maintenance are conducted with the locals in the communities that riders stay with along the journey, to motivate them into living a healthier, active lifestyle.

“Another great aspect [of this cycling journey] was the interaction with the communities that we stopped at along the way… I think having conversations with these communities and sharing our stories and hearing their stories I think that’s another really special aspect of the ride.”

Steer North also focuses on impacting the riders themselves through its leadership programs where they help prepare, organise and bring to fruition the bike ride they are taking part of.

If you are interested in being a part of the Steer North team, do not hesitate and sign up before the extended April 14 deadline. Steer North is accommodating and understanding in regards to student schedules so don’t miss out on this opportunity to be fit and make an impact. For more information and to apply, click here for their official website.

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