At the age of seven, Charlie Simpson was invited to Number 10 Downing Street after raising more than a quarter of a million pounds for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Today the London youngster, now aged 11, was back in the saddle again to raise money for to help victims of a natural disaster – this time, children in the Philippines affected by last month’s Typhoon Haiyan.
Once again, Charlie is looking to raise money for Unicef to help with its aid efforts. Three years ago, he started pedalling around his local park in Fulham, aiming to ride seven laps – around 8km – to raise £500 for the charity’s efforts in Haiti.
Eventually, he raised more than £260,0000 and he also won an award as Just Giving’s website’s most popular fundraiser.
This time round, Charlie was cycling rather further – 40km – and once again had a target of £500 that has already been beaten, with his Just Giving page showing donations of more than £4,000 at the time of writing after completing the ride.
He had a pretty good mentor, too – the Fulham youngster going out for a spin in Richmond Park with none other than Sir Chris Hoy, winner of six Olympic gold medals.
ITV reports that after completing his ride, Charlie said: "It was really, really hard but at the end I felt quite proud of myself.
"I saw all of the pictures of the typhoon on the news and it made me feel sad. I felt I had to do something about it and I wanted to help the children in the Philippines get food, water and shelter.
"I didn't anticipate quite how far it was. When I got to 30km, I got quite tired. But then I thought of the children in the Philippines, and decided: 'I've cycled 30km, I can do another 10km.'”
Prior to the ride, Charlie had blogged about his plans on Unicef’s UK website, saying:
My name is Charlie and I’m 11 years old. I want to tell you about a fundraising bike ride I am doing to raise money for children in the Philippines.
As you probably know at the beginning of November a terrible storm hit the Philippines. Homes, schools and hospitals were flattened and more than 5.5 million children have been affected. That means they may have lost their family, may have no food or water or home or school. I can’t imagine how they’re feeling.
Unicef sends food, water and tents to help these children. They also help children find their family if they got separated from them in the confusion of the storm.
Many of these children have nothing left. They need to start their lives again. They are normal children, just like children here. A couple of weeks ago they were heading to school, and maybe moaning about their homework just like I do with my friends. Today, they are struggling just to survive.
When I was seven, I learnt a really important lesson. I learnt that even if you’re small, you can make a big difference. I cycled five miles for the survivors of the Haiti earthquake. It didn’t seem like much, but more and more people heard about it and after a while I raised more than £260,000. I may not raise as much money this time round but I know that it is worth trying because every single penny counts. And when you put lots of pennies together, they can add up to a huge amount of money that can have a very big impact.
This time, I’m a bit older so I’m going to try doing something really hard. I’m going to cycle 40km. I’ve never cycled that far before and as my friends know I’m probably more used to exercising my fingers and thumbs playing computer games rather than peddling endlessly! It will be hard but I will do it because no matter how hard I find it, it won’t be half as bad as how the children in the Philippines are feeling.
You can support Charlie’s efforts to raise money for victims of the typhoon in the Philippines on his Just Giving page.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.