“Violence is a symptom; it’s the culture that’s the issue,” said Alexander Waddling.
It’s a culture that hardly – if ever – addresses the issue of violence against women, although it should, he said.
That’s why through various events, a benefit concert, ample PR, and a cross-country cycling campaign called Ride for a Dream, Waddling is doing his best to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women.
It started as one friend asking another friend to cycle across Canada last year. The idea quickly spiraled into a social campaign when Waddling decided to attach a good cause to his friend Danny Surjunac’s proposition to ride together.
Last year, the pair cycled from Toronto to Vancouver in support of the White Ribbon Campaign. Today, Waddling and Surjanac embark on their second ride and will be accompanied by two other cycling friends, Micah Markson and Jason Rego, as they make their way from Toronto to Newfoundland. The group expects to finish their journey in early July.
While this summer’s ride remains focused on supporting awareness about violence against women, the scale of the campaign is much larger, Waddling said. What they planned in a couple of months last year has now been a year in the making, with more publicity and greater outreach.
The lead-up to this year’s ride has been a whirlwind of public appearances, including an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos. A documentary about the work that went into this year’s campaign, as well as the ride itself, is also in the works and will include Stroumboulopoulos’s interview.
The Ride team plans to make various stops along their journey, with the sole purpose of engaging the public. Most of the scheduled stops are fundraisers in partnership with universities.
Waddling said if their efforts cause at least one person to question his or her thinking, then the ride will have been a success.
Throughout the ride, Waddling and his team will be seeking donations for the Barbara Schlifer Clinic, which provides counseling and support services for victims of abuse. Last year, the clinic provided 1,825 women with counseling services.
The team decided to support the Barbara Schlifer Clinic this year, Waddling said, because “it’s more conducive [to] our philosophy… to support the support systems for survivors.”
While the main aim of Ride for a Dream is to spread awareness about violence against women, the project is unique because it is spearheaded by a group of young men.
“I hesitate to call it a women’s cause because it’s a human cause,” Waddling said of raising awareness about the issue.
His vision for Ride is to have men and women working together. In particular, he hopes that men will challenge the gender stereotypes that allow violence against women to continue.
“I think that men can be a great resource,” Waddling said. “I think that men can and should be engaged more.”