Tana Silverland didn’t ask for any attention, but she’s learning quickly that it has a way of finding her.
The British ex-pat, who used to be a university administrator in Cambridge, England, is about to embark on a two-and-a-half-year bicycle odyssey across Canada. Attention seems to be a natural consequence of doing something interesting and unique.
“I don’t like publicity,” Silverland says, “but if it raises the awareness of a good cause then it might be worth it.”
And, indeed, Silverman’s journey is far from being a personal glory-quest. There is an agenda: “I want to see more of my new home country and help out the people who are helping Canada,” she says.
During her trip, she will volunteer her time and labour as a WWOOFER – a willing worker on organic farms. She plans to spend approximately a week at each farm and then cycle to the next farm on her list – gradually heading east until she ends up on the opposite coast.
For Silverland, the work done by WWOOFERs is vital to the health of our country and the earth.
“(Organic Farmers’) approach to the use of land as a resource is that it should be cherished, not pillaged. This mindset will prove to be important in the coming years.”
It is not only the work that appeals to Silverland, it is also the community that develops on such farms. “You help out with day-to-day life on a family farm. You’re welcomed as a member of the family.”
Along with the farming, Silverland will also use her cross-Canada bike ride to raise money for her favourite charity, SOS Children’s Villages.
“It’s an international charity,” she explains. “They build family homes for children who have lost their homes and their parents.”
SOS operates in 135 countries around the world, but Silverland notes that it has been especially beneficial to Africa where AIDS and civil war has claimed so many lives.
“The children get a new Mom who is trained to help kids recover from trauma. It gives them so much more care than being placed in an institution.
Silverland’s affinity for SOS is a direct result of her own experiences growing up. “I have such a fantastic Mom. So much of what is good in my life is thanks to her. So I feel deeply for children without love and care.”
To many, Silverland’s prospective journey is the stuff of legends. But, with characteristic modesty, she shrugs off any suggestion that her plans are heroic. “I wanted to see more of Canada, and do volunteer work, and travel in an environmentally friendly way,” she says.
When she connected the various pieces of the puzzle, this transnational bike trip is the picture that emerged. “(I realized that) all this is possible … better go do it.”
Silverland notes that she isn’t even a particularly avid biker, her choice to cycle is just a matter of integrity. “Since my placements (on organic farms) are environmentally themed, cycling just seemed like the best way to get from place to place.”
During her periods of travel, she plans to cover about 100 kilometres in a day.
Silverland will be leaving the Yukon, bound for farms across our country, in August. Those wanting to follow her progress or make a donation to her cause can visit her website at www.tanasilverland.wordpress.com.