Workers building the well for the new Unicorn Project School in Shivrajpur, India. The previous building that housed school was no longer available due to COVID-19. (Submitted)

Penticton retiree to cycle 13,000 km to raise funds for school in India

Mike Barrett hopes to raise at least $5,000 for the school

Most people, once they retire tend to take things a bit easier, but not Mike Barrett.

On his 70th birthday March 10, Barrett, a retired Penticton coroner, plans to cycle 13,000 kilometres, to raise funds for the school he helped start in Bodhgaya, India.

Barrett and the Unicorn Project opened the Unicorn School in the village of Shivrajpur, just south of Bodhgaya in 2019. With donations, the project was able to build desks, paint the walls, and provide the papers, chalkboards and chalk tablets for the students, and hire two local teachers and a cleaner for the school.

Due to COVID-19, the owner of the property that the school had been using took it back in order to house their family, leaving the Unicorn School without a home.

“This happened right around Christmas time, leaving us about eight weeks to figure things out,” said Barrett.

Taking what money the project had to spare, construction was started on a new school building out of the traditional bamboo, straw and mud. A water pump to the supply the building was just finished on Feb. 24.

The plan is to raise the remaining funds to complete the new school, which has so far cost about $5,000 to get halfway finished, with any more going towards other projects to help the village.

READ MORE: Retired Okanagan coroner working to make lives better in India

The village is located in India’s Bihar province, and is made up of members of India’s untouchable caste, who are considered outcasts by the larger society, and thus find themselves without much support.

“Most of the kids don’t have clothes, they’re running around barefoot in long t-shirts,” said Barrett. “They’re kids playing in the dirt playing cricket.”

In addition to the education for the children, the school also provides a meal for them, which for many is the only food they’ll get in a day.

“If we can save two or three and make a good life for them, it will be really worthwhile.”

Two students of the Unicorn Project School in Shivrajpur, India, that Mike Barrett helped establish. (Submitted)

The school provides education in math, language, and other subjects that the children would otherwise have no access to.

“This is the biggest thing that’s happened in many of their lives. Last year when I was there, we took 30 of them for a 10 kilometre ride to a different community, and took them out to a restaurant,” he said.

“There had only been two or three kids who’d been outside their own village.

“It was just amazing, these kids of five or six years old, their eyes wide as saucers, they’d never been to a restaurant.”

In addition to the paid teachers at the school, the support from the village has been instrumental in the work that the Unicorn Project is doing, such as having doctor visits and dental checkups and lessons on dental hygiene.

Barrett discovered the community during a trip to India several years ago, and has continued to make multiple trips out a year, although he has been unable to travel since COVID-19 broke out.

“Biking the 13,000 kilometres will be the least of my worries,” he said.

Barrett plans to cycle 10,000 of the kilometres around B.C. and into Alberta, with the last 1,500 km hopefully taking place once travel is reopened. The final leg would start in Dehli and end in Bodhgaya.

Sponsors and people willing to support the project can donate a penny a kilometre for the ride, or any other amount they want.

“I’m hoping people will sponsor me for the whole ride…13,000 kilometres works out to about $130 at the end of the day. So it’s a pretty inexpensive way,” Barrett said.

More information about Barrett’s Biking to Bodhgaya fundraiser can be found on the Unicorn Project website at unicornproject.ca/biking-to-bodhgaya.

Donations can also be made through Barrett’s Paypal and Square accounts.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


@PentictonNews
newstips@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Community Leadership

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

Two teen boys admitted to playing with a lighter for the April 16 wildfire in Oliver. (Lynda Shoemaker photo Facebook)
Two youths admit to causing grass fire in Oliver

That same night a 26-year-old man was arrested for deliberately setting a field on fire

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

Abandoned Rail Brewing Company, located at 1220 Davenport Ave. on the KVR trail, has applied to the City of Penticton for a manufacturing facility and lounge endorsement. The city will review the application in their April 20, 2021 council meeting. (City of Penticton photo)
Penticton could be getting a new brewery on the KVR trail

The patio would seat up to 113 just 10 feet from the trail

courts
Penticton man guilty of assaulting young boys

Bryan Lamb was found guilty of two counts of assault

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

A strange odour at a West Kelowna apartment building prompted the evacuation of 150 residents on Sunday morning, April 18. (Aaron Hemens - Capital News)
‘Do not occupy’ order lifted, residents of West Kelowna apartment allowed to return home

The building was evacuated early Sunday morning due to a strange smell

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

Vernon Search and Rescue’s helicopter team was asked to be on standby to rescue a missing hiker in Naramata. (Air Rescue One/VSAR photo)
Lost hiker rescued in Okanagan Mountain Park

COSAR, PENSAR, and VSAR worked together to rescue a hiker in Okanagan Mountain Park

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Increased COVID-19 activity brings vaccine clinic to Enderby

Registration opens Tuesday, April 20 for May clinic for anyone over the age of 18

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Most Read