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Why I Am Biking for Altitude: Denise Wiltse

I truly didn’t know what to expect when I arrived in Ladakh with Daniel and the film team for the first time in March 2019. But I witnessed what it is like to be forced into bonded labour in the 21st Century. It is extreme poverty compiled on a caste hierarchy with very prevalent discrimination. And as long as this continues, along with mass illiteracy and lack of skills and training, bonded labour will also continue.

For nearly 12 years, Himalayan Life has become a stronghold for Nepalese children of migrant families in Ladakh by providing housing, access to schooling and education, and HOPE for a better future. It was an incredibly humbling experience visiting this location in March 2019 as, at that time four girls had successfully graduated and negotiations occurred between the four girls, their families and Himalayan Life to support the girls in the continuation of their education. Sitting in a small room where rugs covered the entirety of the floor, mattresses were laid out along three walls and a stove in the middle of the room provided just enough heat to break the chill of the ambient temperature, the emotions that were expressed, felt, and shared as the families signed an agreement allowing these girls to further their education is something I will never forget. It was a very empowering moment.

I want to ride for Himalayan Life because I want people in my life to see what is happening in this remote location. That there is hardship, there are dangers, but there is also beauty. And there is transformation occurring. People can be active in supporting this transformation, I’m just choosing my activity to be a little more physically demanding.

Denise Wiltse, Altitude Cyclist