You may well have heard of LifeCycle – an international expedition that takes cyclists on the journey of a lifetime to raise funds to assist renal patients in Malta. The first one in 1999 – took the team from Malta to Newcastle. Since then, they have cycled as far afield as Greece in 2005, Syria in 2009, Japan in 2014, and Tanzania in 2017. This year’s journey – one of the most adventurous to date – will take them from Dubai in the UAE to Salalah in Oman. With this in mind, it is no surprise that LifeCycle is considered one of the toughest and most gruelling challenges anywhere in the world.
Of course, LifeCycle has featured hundreds of cyclists since it was first formed. But at the centre of all of them is Alan Curry – the organisation’s founder, and the man who continues to ensure its mission grows and develops year on year.
Alan’s desire to raise funds for this cause is actually a very personal one – it all started in December 1998 when his wife suffered kidney failure. “The staff at the Renal Unit were so caring that I thought I’d repay them by doing a long distance cycle ride back to my village in England,” he says. “I planned for it to take 21 days, and hoped to raise some money to give them a boost. As it turns out, we raised thousands (€100,000 approximately), and the whole thing just took off from there.”
Alan has always been motived by the desire to ‘do good’. In fact, one of his earliest memories is of walking the full marathon for charity at school in the UK. “The people sponsoring me back then were so impressed with what we were willing to do, that they didn’t really care what the money was for. LifeCycle gets that reaction too – people are impressed with what we are willing to do, and they support it. Beyond that, though, the fact their money is going to renal patients is very special.”
The challenge itself covers an average of 2,000km in a mere 10 days, and is held annually in October. This year marks its 19th anniversary. But looking back, Alan admits that the first-ever team – which took on the challenge in 1999 – was probably quite naïve. “None of us had ever done any charity work on this scale before; we had no official committee, no intention of going beyond the first year, and were just running on adrenaline.”
Nowadays, LifeCycle has a foundation headed by three supervisory council members including Alan, Tony Bugeja (who was originally in charge of the renal unit and had been on the first trip) and Alan’s great friend Tim Peco. The organisation also has a working committee led by Dr Shirley Cefai, who has been involved for the past 10 years and is also its chairperson. “Currently, we’re in the midst of forming a fellowship that will be for money coming in from foreign sources and used solely for research purposes,” Alan explains. “At the moment, we are also among the finalists of the Social Impact Awards, which we hope will see a fully-fledged campaign on the awareness and prevention of this life threatening disease come to fruition.”
After all, awareness is such an important part of the stellar work that LifeCycle does, and its main aims are to educate people about renal disease, raise funds for the treatment of renal patients, and to increase research into the causes and possible cures for renal failure. With that in mind, Alan and his core team always meet the medical staff at Mater Dei before each campaign starts, who then provide a ‘wish list’ of their needs. Regardless of the focus though, the funds will be used to help fight the difficulties faced by renal patients, which include fatigue, tiredness, bloating, water retention and obviously the treatment itself.
Looking back on what has been achieved, Alan says he hopes that, today, there is more flexibility in the treatment available thanks to the machines purchased through LifeCycle funds. “I think there is definitely more awareness on the issue today, as well as prevention,” he continues. “In the case of prevention – which is so important – we have a whole campaign about to be launched. Next we will continue with our investment into research so that the local conditions leading to renal failure are better understood, and will be able to raise awareness in that specific direction.”
As for the future of the event, Alan says he would like to think that this is very bright – “but it will take hard work, that’s for sure!” he asserts. “That said, our passion for the task in hand is still as strong – actually even stronger – than it was back in 1998 when we started. I truly believe there’s no limit to where we can take LifeCycle for the benefit of renal patients and the families that also suffer with them. We are always pushing the boundaries. Taking the easy option has never been something we do – and that’s exactly what we will be focusing on as we go forward.”
This article originally appeared in The Commercial Courier