Trying to change the world can be quite the journey. For a group of Ukrainian bicyclists, this trip is 2,600 miles long.
“We go around the world for people to get adopted,” said Gennadiy Mokhnenko, the bike team leader and founder of a children’s home in Mariupol, Ukraine. “This is my dream, each child with family.”
In hopes of raising awareness for orphaned children and advocating for adoption, the World Without Orphans Bike Tour made a stop Monday and Tuesday in Santa Fe as part of a Los Angeles-to-Miami tour. The eight Ukrainian cyclists, easily identifiable in their bright blue jerseys, left the city Tuesday morning with their sights set on Santa Rosa.
“We are very happy to be in New Mexico because we were in Colorado, but too much mountains,” Mokhnenko said with a chuckle. “I’m a huge, big man for bicycle and huge, big mountain killed me.”
The tour started May 5 and is scheduled to end July 27. The group has done tours in Europe and Asia totaling 14,500 miles, and ventured to the U.S. for the first time this year.
Started in 2011 to dispel the myths about adoption in the former Soviet Union, the cycling tour has expanded globally and partnered with Serving Orphans Worldwide, a Christian nonprofit helping 51 orphanages in 27 countries.
Serving Orphans Worldwide connected with Mokhnenko in 2010 as the nonprofit helped support his children’s home. Reece Anderson, the development director at Serving Orphans Worldwide, said this ride “is really about championing adoption and raising awareness of the orphan crisis.”
The tour seeks to put children in permanent homes. According to Serving Orphans Worldwide’s website, more than 200 children were placed with families as the team participated in awareness events in Europe and Asia.
“It’s not about sport or bicycle,” Mokhnenko said. “[The] bicycle is just [the] instrument to spread the message. …We believe we have enough amazing families around world to adopt all orphans.”
Over the past 19 years, Mokhnenko has adopted 32 children, and his children’s home has been home to more than 4,000 kids. He said his team, which includes several of his adopted sons, embarked on bikes to do something huge.
The most important message he wants to share as they journey to change the world is the impact a family can make by giving a home to a child in need.
“Don’t be afraid,” Mokhnenko said. “If you’re thinking about adopting, just do it.”