Three alumni of Winston-Salem State University say they will tap into their adventurous spirit next month in India.
They will drive across that country in a motorized rickshaw to raise money in a charitable event.
Jeremiah Erby, a Winston-Salem native and a 2006 WSSU graduate; Merid Berhe, a 2008 WSSU graduate; and Kevin Bryant, a 2009 WSSU graduate, have formed Team Black & Wild and will travel to Jaisalmer, India, on Thursday to begin their 1,677-mile journey across northern India.
The trio are taking part in the 2016 Rickshaw Run, a two-week event that has attracted nearly 70 teams and about 200 participants. an organizer said in an email. Two international charities, Cool Earth Action of London and The Breakthrough Endowment are sponsoring the event.
Cool Earth is dedicated to protecting the Earth’s rain forests. The Breakthrough Endowment, a nonprofit organization established by The Breakthrough Behavioral Inc. of Redwood, Calif., works to improve people’s mental health.
Cool Earth will receive about $50,000 from the event, the organizer said. The teams will raise about $50,000 for other charities, such as The Breakthrough Endowment.
Erby, a 2001 graduate of Carver High School, works as a vice president for JPMorgan, where he heads its strategy, planning and analysis for the Global Communities Group in New York City. He said that it should be a good experience traveling across India in a rickshaw.
“It’s a good opportunity to travel and do something for an actual purpose,” Erby said. “It will be a good experience to see a country in a new way. The adventure side of it was appealing to me.”
Bryant, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., is the senior associate director of recruitment for Uncommon Schools, a network of public charter schools in New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. He is looking forward to testing his limits.
“I like to challenge myself,” said Bryant, a native of Roanoke Rapids. “I want to get out of our country and drive across India.”
Berhe works for the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, as the head of North and Latin American for its Young Global Leaders program. He said that his participation in the Rickshaw Run has awakened his childhood passion for adventures.
“As a kid, I used to climb buildings, build things to ride on, go on hiking adventures,” Berhe said in an email. “But I sort of lost that spirit as adulthood kicked in and epic adventures are replaced by corporate ambitions. This is the trip to reclaim that child adventurist in me.”
The trip has elements that appeal to children and adults, he said, such as “an unpredictable foreign land, a wacky vehicle we can tamper with, equally insane friends who are willing to do it with you and an epic story to tell my grandkids.”
The men will fly to Delhi, India, and then take another flight to Jaisalmer, where the event begins, Bryant said. They will learn how to drive a rickshaw, a three-wheel vehicle with a small horsepower engine. Erby and Bryant will learn how to make basic repairs to the vehicle. Berhe said he learned how to maintain a rickshaw during a recent trip to Ethiopia.
The event begins on Friday, and the teams will travel through northern India to Shillong, in the northeastern part of the country. Erby, Bryant and Berhe will wear WSSU apparel during their trip, they say.
They and the other participants will navigate regions of a country with 1.2 billion people. Each team will find places to eat and sleep during their journey.
“To me, that’s part of the adventure,” Erby said.
Along the way, the teams will cope with nearly 100-degree temperatures in a country that lies near the equator.
“I’m certain (that) it will require the stamina of a triathlete and the patience of a Tibetan monk, neither of which come close to describing any one of us,” Berhe said. “I think trying to cope with the Indian heat is an exercise in futility. My plan is to surrender to Mother Nature and hope she’ll have mercy on me.”
Bryant said he will always remember this trip.
“I like doing crazy stuff,” Bryant said. “Never in my life would I imagine doing something like this.”