Meet Tony Frobisher, a veteran fundraiser and incredible supporter of The Bike Project. Tony has raised over £40,000 for several charities since 2007, written a charity cookbook, climbed Kilimanjaro, 8 poetry collections (with some of the proceeds going to us), and last, but by no means least, is a Refugee Route Challenge Champion.
We feel so lucky to have heard from such an experienced fundraiser. Take it away Tony:
Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Tony Frobisher. I am 53 and live in Worcester in the West Midlands, UK. I am an English language teacher, teaching English to Foreign Students (TEFL). I have travelled widely to around 50 countries and am married to my wife Rini, from Java, Indonesia. We have a daughter, Louisa who is nearly 16. I taught English in Indonesia and Malaysia and in the UK. I now run my own online teaching business.
When and how did you hear about The Bike Project?
I think it was something I saw on the Internet. I was intrigued to find out more and when I visited the website, was glad I did.
What drew you to fundraising for The Bike Project?
I have been a keen cyclist for many years and have taken on many cycling fundraising challenges. In 2013 I organised a 1,000 miles in 10 days cycle fundraising event for myself and 3 friends. We cycled John O’Groats to Lands End via the ‘pretty route’…aka over the mountains and hills, taking on Glen Coe, as well as Kirkstone Pass int he Lake District.
Every year I try to do one cycle challenge and I was looking for some inspiration. The Bike Project was the perfect charity to fundraise for. I have supported refugees and refugee charities for some time. I am a published poet and have written a collection of poetry called ‘We Are People Too – Poems for the Refugee’, inspired by my Kurdish friend Kovan. He came to the UK escaping Sadaam Hussein’s brutal regime. I also volunteer and teach English to refugees and asylum seekers for Care 4 Calais.
The Refugee Route challenge was ideal because it involved cycling, supporting refugees ad gave me the motivation to get off the sofa and out of the house to get some more miles in! I also donated a bicycle to The Bike Project as I was so inspired by what they do to get refugees cycling.
How was your Refugee Routes experience?
It was an excellent challenge. As the miles clocked up, I received regular updates from The Bike Project showing where a refugee may be on their journey and the personal stories were a real motivation to complete the challenge.
Which Refugee Route did you do? Why did you choose it?
I chose 918 miles – Syria to Izmir. I cycle a lot and wanted a challenge that would be a physical test, but something that I could feel a sense of achievement in accomplishing. I set myself 3 months to do it, 306 miles per month.
What was your favourite ride?
Definitely the 100 miles for refugees challenge, cycling 100 miles over the Malvern Hills 6 times. It was really tough (I am a little heavy to be a ‘pure climber’ and prefer downhill to uphill. Because I don’t like climbing so much, it was a real test physically and mentally. But the weather was excellent and it was a brilliant day on the bike.
Is there a memory that sticks out in the challenge?
Yes. Refreshments! Stopping to refill the water bottles from the natural Malvern water springs and looking forward to a great big slab of cake and a cappuccino as I came towards the end of one of the laps.
Did you learn anything new?
Yes. 918 miles is a long way on a bicycle. Let alone fleeing from the only place you have known. From friends, family, jobs, education and to face a dangerous journey carrying only what you can. To face an uncertain future. 918 miles for me was a test, hard at times, but ultimately fun and of my own choosing. To be a refugee is not a choice anyone wants to make or thinks will happen to them. It made me become more determined to continue to help refugees in the future.
Why should someone take on the Refugee Routes challenge?
Whichever distance you decide to do, the challenge should be fun, but also has to have purpose. Just turning the wheels on a bike for a few (!) miles can and will help change lives. Every pedal stroke will motivate friends and family to support you and donate. Miles on the bike = pounds in donations. That has to be the motivation.
What are your top 3 fundraising tips?
- Set a realistic fundraising target. For example £100 or £250. Encourage people to donate and don’t be discouraged if the initial donations slow. When you are doing your challenge, or nearing completion (or after you complete it), the donations will come in. I promise! You may be surprised at how much you surpass your initial target
- Keep your supporters, friends and family updated. Use social media, but don’t swamp people with posts every day. Target a couple of posts a week. Don’t forget to use ‘old fashioned’ technology and email your contacts. Or text. Or WhatsApp. Ask your boss / company if they will donate / sponsor you or maybe match your fundraising pound for pound.
- Depending on your fundraising challenge, local news media are always interested in fundraising stories. Contact your local radio stations and newspapers. I have had a lot of support over the years and have been on BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester and in the Worcester News newspaper very often.
What are your top 3 tips to hit those big mile targets?
- Break down the target. 918 miles in 3 month. Wow, it sounds a lot. 306 miles per month…about 76.5 miles per week. Ok, so that is 2 x 15 mile rides a week (an hour each) and a longer ride 45-50 miles at the weekend (around 3-3.5 hours) Achievable!
- Enjoy the miles. Enjoy the hills. Yes, cycling can be painful – legs, backside, aching muscles. The sight of another hill can fill you with dread. But, go at your own pace. It’s not le Tour de France. Enjoy the ride. Schedule breaks, factor in that favourite cafe for a well earned coffee and slice of cake. Enjoy the hills, take them at your pace. Slow and steady if you need to. Try to take in the view, appreciate the scenery, where you are and the freedom you are enjoying. Enjoy going up and you’ll LOVE going down again.
- Challenge within a challenge. If you are aiming for a big total mileage (e.g 918 miles), perhaps consider taking on a challenge within a challenge (as I did in cycling 100 miles over the Malvern Hills in a day). Not only does the tick off a large chunk of your mile target, it can generate more donations form supporters.
Final tip. If you have a friend or friends who can join you for a ride or two, the miles will fly by. I enjoy cycling solo, but whenever a friend and I ride together, the time and distance whiz past. Cycling with company is always fun (especially if they shout you the coffee and cake)
Why do you support refugees?
Refugees are people too. We are all the same, we have needs, emotions, passions, interests. We all share this planet Earth together. Yet, circumstance and an ‘accident of birth’ have resulted in some people having to make the most difficult of choices – to flee and become a refugee. It could so easily be us. If we can spread one thing in this world, it should be kindness. Refugees deserve our respect, compassion and support. If we were in the same situation, we would hope for the same.
In a perfect world, how would you like to see refugees being supported in the UK?
I would love to see refugees being able to work and contribute to UK society more easily. I recently met two of my online refugee class in person. One had been in limbo, stuck in a hotel room, for 1 year 3 months until his asylum status was granted. Another has been there for 5 months and counting. These are skilled and experienced people, wanting to work, to use their professional skills to better themselves and to integrate in society. They don’t want to sit around for months, or years doing nothing. I wish the process could be speeded up and where appropriate, refugees allowed to work as they wish to do.
Anything you would like to add?
It was a pleasure to fundraise for The Bike Project and to take part in the Refugee Routes cycle challenge. I am looking forward to supporting The Bike Project again in the future.
Inspired by Tony like us? Sign up and start fundraising today.