Several Cornellians biked across the country this past summer through Bike & Build, a nonprofit that organizes cross-country bicycle trips in which participants raise money and work towards creating affordable housing opportunities nationwide.
Among the Cornellian participants of Bike & Build’s numerous trips were Sarah Dellett ’18, Rachel Zhao ’15 and Jayant Mukhopadhaya ’15.
Dellet biked from Connecticut to California for over two months, traversing an average of 70 miles a day for a total of 4,072 miles, according to a Bike & Build press release.
Throughout the 75 day trip, Dellett said she participated in projects that included cleaning up neighborhood parks, painting houses and building roofs for homes. While 58 days were devoted to biking, Dellett said she spent 15 days of the trip volunteering with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together in order to build affordable homes for families.
“I’d always wanted to do a long bike trip,” Dellett said. “I was not a big cyclist before this.”
Despite her non-professional cycling experience, she said she found that “the human body is an amazing thing and can do so much.”
“We had three days of orientation to get used to bike safety and to bond with our group before the trip,” Dellett said. “Once we got out west it was just phenomenal ride days and everything about it was perfect. The people on my route were just so much fun, so caring, energetic and hilarious. We are still best friends.”
Dellett emphasized how seeing part of the world by bike changed her world view, saying it instilled her with “respect for nature … and for civil engineering.” In particular, she said that she was especially impressed by some of the road structures in mountainous regions.
“I feel like I can do anything now,” Dellett said. “There were some hard days in the beginning, but there were so many things to look forward to.”
Dellett also encouraged other young people to participate in the Bike & Build program.
“Seriously, don’t underestimate your abilities,” she said. “It was the best experience of my life. You meet amazing people and feel like you really contributed. You meet real families and you’ll be amazed at what can be done in the course of the day with 31 pairs of hands on deck.”
Rachel Zhao ’15, another participant, had some prior experience with outdoor adventures and housing service projects, according to her biography on the Bike & Build website.
“A few years ago, I spent the summer in rural China, restoring homes in a village devastated by the Sichuan earthquake,” Zhao wrote online. “This experience stirred my interest in social impact.”
Zhao wrote that she sought to continue making a social impact in the lives of others by becoming involved in Bike & Build’s affordable housing projects.
Jayant Mukhopadhaya ’15 also participated in a Bike & Build trip over the summer. His experience with a service program in his primary school in India, where students helped build structures for a nearby village, inspired him to become involved in Bike & Build, according to his biography on the organization’s website.