To Educate Children, a Unicycle Ride

A Harvard father and daughter raise money to benefit children in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sophie and Philip Wharton

On July 10, Philip Wharton ’82 and his daughter Sophie Wharton ’11 will begin a 100-mile, four-day journey through Montreal and neighboring districts in Quebec. Their vehicle of choice? The unicycle. The trip, dubbed “A Balancing Act,” will raise money for the Central Asia Institute (CAI), an organization that works to expand education for children in rural areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sophie Wharton, a psychology concentrator, learned how to ride a unicycle at a circus camp during middle school and received one of her own for her thirteenth birthday. Philip Wharton rode a unicycle for the first time just last summer; he has been preparing for this month’s endeavor by commuting on one wheel from his home in Larchmont, New York, to the train station. Both father and daughter will be carrying everything they need with them on their backs, and they hope to make this self-proclaimed “crazy escapade” an annual event. 

Though the Whartons have been involved in other charity efforts, this is the first one they’ve organized themselves and they wanted to do something unusual to better raise awareness and funding for the cause. “We thought that 100 miles would be a challenging, but achievable goal,” says Sophie, “and we chose Montreal for our adventure because it has so many beautiful, off-road trails suitable for long-range unicycling.”

 “We were particularly inspired after reading the extraordinary story of Greg Mortenson (co-founder of CAI) in the book Three Cups of Tea,” says Sophie. “We believe strongly in the special role of education as the best way to improve the human condition, reduce intolerance, and promote peace over the long term.” Especially compelling was the unique philosophy of CAI, which since 1996 has built nearly 80 schools that have served more than 28,000 children, empowering local teachers and placing special emphasis on girls’ education. “They work with community leaders, including religious leaders, to build the schools, instead of imposing an outsider’s view of what is most important,” says Philip.

To read more about the ride, see The Whartons will also update a blog during their trip.   

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