Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ready for a 2,000-mile lesson

Posted by Marcus Yam

Bellevue College educator Stella Orechia is cycling 1,000 miles in the Pacific Northwest, visiting several communities of Burmese refugee communities, and another 1,000 miles in Myanmar (the former Burma) to raise money and awareness both for refugees in the Pacific Northwest and those at the Thailand/Myanmar border. A former Olympic athlete, Orechia wanted to find a way use her strengths to benefit the refugee communities in the Northwest. By dividing her Northwest journey into five segments, she said she can connect with different refugees at the end of each trip with a picnic. 

 In Redmond, Stella Orechia and Nancy Karnes look at a photo they took of themselves in advance of a bicycle trip to Spokane. Orechia is trying to raise money and build support for Burmese refugees. "It is a way for me to go back to my birthplace and be able to experience it in a way that connects to my profession as a health and wellness instructor -- being able to exercise and use biking to demonstrate fitness and creating a humanitarian project that brings me back to a country where I was born." Stella, born 50 years ago in the nation then known as Burma, will return to the country for the first time to continue the second leg of her journey.

 After that, she will spend a month volunteering as a health educator at the Mae Tao Health clinic for fleeing refugees on the nation's border with Thailand. Proceeds of her cycling efforts will go to the Northwest Communities of Burma and the Mae Tao Health Clinic. The last leg of her journey in the Pacific Northwest will begin Aug. 3, at the Canadian border Peace Arch at Blaine and will end Aug. 10 in Kent. 

MARCUS YAM / THE SEATTLE TIMES

The journey's conclusion in Kent will will coincide with the Northwest Communities of Burma's All-Star soccer tournament, which will bring together various Burmese communities in the region for a picnic and some athleticism. Bellevue College educator Stella Orechia is cycling 1,000 miles in the Pacific Northwest and 1,000 miles in Burma to raise money and awareness for refugees from Burma in the Pacific Northwest and in the Thailand/Burma border.