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under the Marriott International umbrella– will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with a 600km cycle challenge through Jordan

For the past decade, Guido De Wilde – Chief Operating Officer Middle East for Marriott International, and founder of Road to Awareness – has dedicated days and months of his life to cycling in Europe in the name of charity and as part of the Road to Awareness campaign, launched in 2008. 
 
 
It all began 10 years ago when a handful of senior associates at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, decided to take on a three-day cycling challenge in the French Alps in aid of UNICEF: “We  wanted to give back to the community – it’s part of our nature as hoteliers, being the kind of people who like to look after and support others. The generosity, spirit, and commitment demonstrated by our associates across the region who take part each year always inspires me and makes me so proud,” Guido said. In the nine years since its launch, the campaign has raised close to USD 7 million with the goal of making a positive difference to underprivileged children living in the communities that the group’s hotels operate in. The three-day bike ride continues to be a major highlight of the programme.
 
 
This year, the campaign – which is now under the Marriott International umbrella– will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with a 600km cycle challenge through Jordan between October 12th to 14th. The team will ride across the country, that has yet been undiscovered in the world of cycling, hoping to not only showcase the power of the sport but also provide team members with a stunning backdrop for their efforts. They will begin their ride on Day 1 from the Dead Sea, which, at 383 meters below sea level is the lowest point on Earth, and head in a fairly straight line to the beautiful seaside town of Aqaba. Day 2 will see the group ride from Aqaba to the legendary historical city of Petra, while Day 3 will lead them back down to the Dead Sea. The cycle challenge will receive a high level of local support, with Cycling Jordan providing a mechanic and support car for the duration. 
 
 
The team will be joined by two guest riders: Ammar Al Satari, a former Jordanian national cycling champion, and Sari Husseini from Cycling Jordan. With a variety of terrains to cover, the ride will be extremely challenging, demanding a high level of fitness and absolute commitment from all team riders. The objective of the 24 associates who signed up for the challenge – from Night Managers to C-level associates –  is to raise a minimum total of $500K for a number of regional charities, each selected by the individual associates for a cause close to their heart. 
 
 
 
“It’s a great initiative, and I’m always happy to participate and raise awareness where possible. We have a fantastic opportunity with the network we’ve developed, our contacts, number of associates, and marketing reach, to really make an impact and help those in need, so why not participate?” said Ramine Behnam, Director of Development for Marriott International. 
 
 
Behnam used to be a heavy smoker with a fast food-focused diet but became a dedicated triathlete four years ago, losing about 25kgs in the process. He’s now completed one half and one full Ironman races and is preparing for his third, saying the cycle challenge fits perfectly into his regime, with him dedicating 10-12 hours a week towards training. 
 
 
Another associate who has seen his life transform since committing to the challenge is Talal Khalife, Marriott International’s Director of Global Sales for the Gulf, Levant & Africa: “My participation has inspired me to continue leading a healthy lifestyle. Cycling is now a hobby of mine that I enjoy practicing weekly. It has allowed me to not only stay active and fit, but also to meet like-minded people and friends for life.” 
 
 
Noran Masri, an Assistant Training Manager for Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa, is equally as dedicated, working out twice a day with a 50km ride each morning. During weekends, he pushes himself to complete cycling a 100km – no easy feat, considering the martial arts enthusiast is new to the sport of cycling. “I’m excited about the experience, meeting new people, and helping out charities. Not a lot of people can say they rode the R2A 600km in Jordan,” he says. 
 
 
Aside from the charitable and physical benefits to be gained, other associates taking part are looking forward to the social, mental, and emotional rewards they can reap from the experience. Jakub Adamowicz, EAM of Facility Management for The Luxury Collection in Aqaba, explains that it’s a great way to bolster his mental wellbeing. “I believe I live a fortunate life – I have a roof over my head, I’m happy [with my] family and friends, and never went to sleep hungry. This is an opportunity to give something back to the world and to people in need,” Adamowicz said. 
 
 
The associates’ altruistic spirit is reflective of Marriott International’s commitment to charitable causes and similar CSR initiatives as a brand that’s proud to support its surrounding communities and make a difference. “The 10th anniversary of Road to Awareness is very inspiring as I have watched many R2A in Europe and loved the team spirit, the huge commitment to fundraising, and the general physical challenge,” says Lucy Wilson, Change and Communication Manager for Marriott International, continuing: “I feel I owe it to the company to give it 100%. Since the merger, we are pioneering this into the MEA continent so I feel very proud to be part of something so significant.”
 
 
The cycle challenge will be documented through video and photography by a dedicated film crew, and the campaign’s ongoing objective is to not only make a positive difference in the world and aid those living in underprivileged circumstances, but also to encourage their employees to live healthier, fitter lives while creating unforgettable memories and fostering life-long friendships. 

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