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Auckland Couple’s Fundraising Ride To Protect Young Nepalese Girls

Tania (left) and Joao Petreceli get ready to set off on their epic ride.

A former Queenstown couple, now based in Auckland, set off biking the length of New Zealand, 3000kms from Cape Reinga to Bluff, on Monday (October 26) to raise $US60,000 (almost $NZ90,000) for a desperately needed school in Nepal.

Joao and Tania Petreceli, both in their 50s, are permanent New Zealand residents after immigrating to this country in 2013.

They were part of a huge fundraising drive in Queenstown in recent years to buy land and build a school in the quake-ravaged village of Nuwakot, 80kms northwest of Kathmandu.

Spokesman Henrique Waihrich says the aim of the Petreceli’s ‘Ride4Freedom’ is to get the school built so as to protect young girls in the mountainous region of Nepal from sex trafficking predators.

The Queenstown group from the resort’s Global Community Presbyterian Church accepted a challenge in 2016 to fundraise to build houses after Nepal was devastated by a large earthquake. Not only did they raise enough money to build 10 temporary houses - $NZ12,000, but they also flew to Nepal at their own expense and during their own annual leave time to build four of the houses for the community of Nuwakot.

From left, Ride4Freedom Queenstown volunteers, Vanessa Campos, Irajá Max, Ana Meneghetti, Eloisa Almeida and Henrique Waihrich gear up for a good South American welcome in the Petreceli’s old hometown in December.

While working in the region the group met their local guide, a young Nepalese teacher, who herself had been rescued from sex trafficking and taken in by South American-based aid organisation, The Apple of God’s Eyes in Nepal.

Now 23, married and mother of a one-year old son, that young teacher Anjali Tamang`s dream is to build a school in her community and educate the children so as to protect them. “Education is the key to saving these young girls and protecting them and their families from being deceived and exploited by these trafficking rings with their false promises,” says Henrique.

Between the New Zealand group and Anjali, who has published a book telling her life story, a total of $US46,000 has already been raised and the land has been purchased. However, due to local difficulties in Nepal and the worldwide Covid crisis the project hasn’t been able to advance much further, says Henrique.

“That’s why Joao and Tania have stepped up to do something about it,” he says. “They believe that if people see them making all this effort for the cause then they will get behind them with donations for the project.”

They hope to average 70kms a day on their bike ride and will camp out most nights along the way, cooking their own food.

“We’re hoping many towns along the way will receive them warmly with donations and various forms of hospitality,” says Henrique.

The bikers hope to arrive in Auckland about October 30 and will be uploading photos and videos of their progress throughout the journey onto Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. People can donate to the school project through the website www.ride4freedom.org and they’re hoping for a great response.

They’re also hoping to have Auckland’s Sky Tower lit up in the colours of the Nepalese flag to raise awareness about the project as they pass through.

The pair expects to arrive in Bluff during the second half of December.

The Petrecelis only moved to Auckland from Queenstown last year.

Joao, who is a missionary from Brazil, and Tania, are now ambassadors of The Apple of God’s Eye in Kathmandu, which has rescued and restored more than 600 girls in the last 20 years.

As part of the ongoing fundraising initiative, Ride4Freedom organisers are also holding a jazz concert in Queenstown on November 7, starring the Queenstown Jazz Orchestra and other local musicians.


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