What should have been a simple renewal with a longtime advertiser, has me feeling like I’ve fallen down the corporate communications rabbit hole. In the middle of writing a description of our North American readership distribution, an e-mail from CAUSE.ca arrives, throwing my scramble for advertising budget into sharp relief.
The e-mail is from Paul Carrik, founder of CAUSE (Christian Aid for Under-Assisted Societies Everywhere) Canada, a registered charity that implements self-help projects within the developing world and has dared to work in Sierra Leone (in West Africa) for over 20 years.
I’m not religious, but I respect that such an operation is no small feat. Sierra Leone was in a state of civil war from 1991 to the year 2000, with more than 2-million people displaced, the forced recruitment of child soldiers and approximately 20,000 civilians suffering from amputation by machetes and axes (a terror tactic by the Revolutionary United Front).
Reading the e-mail, the bottom drops out of my world. The talk of market positioning, banner ad sales, slashed budgets, test rides, press launches and other marketing machination feel desperately shallow, when compared to CAUSE’s efforts in aiding development in Western Africa.
Simply put Mr. Carrik would like OneWheelDrive.Net’s help in reaching the Canadian enduro, dual-sport and adventure riders, because one of CAUSE’s chief tools in providing emergency assistance, health care and education in Sierra Leone are small displacement dual purpose bikes. The 125cc Hondas are inexpensive, cheap to operate and maintain, capable of accessing very remote areas and have the best dealer support in the region, all of which is important in a country with rudimentary infrastructure. Case in point, out of 11,700kms of highway in Sierra Leone only 936 is paved.
The bikes also represent an opportunity for motorcyclists to ride a part of the world that until recently few have dared to travel, and make a positive contribution to the region in the process. CAUSE runs two motorcycle tours yearly, in April and November.
These tours success lies in finding small groups of “philanthropic riders” willing to covered upwards of 1,600 kilometers of Sierra Leone’s most remote regions over 12 days, then present the new bike to one of CAUSE Canada’s African field workers afterwards. So for about $8000.00 and an airfare, you’ve the chance to explore a previously unconsidered part of Africa and better the world.
The evening swims on, a response concerning the readership breakdown comes drops into my inbox. In summation a motorcycle marketing machine so very willing to provide product for reviews and adventures, is so very unwilling to support the expenses we incur in those efforts.
Ill timed, the e-mail interrupts my consideration of the ethics around charging advertising to an organization that provides uniforms for amputee soccer teams, health care, HIV/AIDS education and other life changing essentials to a country it refused to abandon even during the very definition of “bloody civil war”. Surfing an internet sea of Sierra Leone’s bigger problems, a jab over budget percentiles barely penetrates the electric tingle of potential running over my skin.
An idealist, I’m running through the possible stories and videos joining CAUSE’s could generate, the good they could do and the value they could create. I’m caught in the notion that riding, and adventure riding in particular, could transition from an utterly enjoyable indulgence to a more mature act enriching the world, and smothered in a rich topping of good Karma. I idle on the thought of what it might mean for the industry to look outside itself, to something bigger, and that motorcycle writing could likewise grow.
In the end I can’t sell CAUSE.ca advertising, my moral compass won’t let me. Instead I respond to the e-mail that I’d like to do what I can to help, unfortunately the best I have to offer is words.
CAUSE.ca is seeking riders for its April tour of Sierra Leone
For more information:
E-Mail: Alanna Thompson
Applications, a sample itinerary and a packing list can be found at http://www.cause.ca/motorcycle_trip/files
Cost: Approximately $8,000 (excluding airfare) with a majority going towards the purchase a motorcycle for an African aid worker. Adventurers receive a $6,500 tax receipt in return valid in Canada.