Teri’s Notebook: Photographer Rick Gunn to aid Syrian refugees

Rick Gunn, a South Lake Tahoe man who has gained notoriety for his bicycle journey around the world, is planning another adventure.

Gunn, who worked with me for several years at the Nevada Appeal, is collecting children’s backpacks to bring with him when he goes to Greece in April to work in a Syrian refugee camp.

“I am not going to be doing glamorous tasks,” he said. “I’ll probably be washing laundry, cleaning up garbage, collecting firewood, feeding people, those types of things.”

He’s also hoping to be able to take photos and write stories while he’s there.

Before going, however, he’s trying to collaborate with service clubs, schools and other organizations to collect backpacks full of supplies to bring to the children in the camps.

His plan is to get backpacks donated then bring them to schools in Lake Tahoe, perhaps some in Carson City. The schools would then hold drives and fundraisers to fill the backpacks with school and art supplies, such as crayons, pens, paper and pencils. He’s also looking for basic clothing items like socks and underwear and hats.

Students also could include pictures and handwritten messages.

“These children find themselves in a new land, their homes destroyed,” he said. “Think about that for a minute. These people don’t look anything like you. They don’t speak like you. You’re terrified.

“But then you get this backpack full of things you recognize — crayons, pencils, maybe a toy. Then you see something like a drawing from someone else to say I sympathize with what you’re going through. That could mean everything.”

He said he wants to give students the opportunity to address global issues.

“We’re beaten every day with that constant drip of suffering in the world until we become immune to it,” he said. “I want to tell them to stay aware, keep their hearts open and remain compassionate. Direct your energy toward a solution. You can’t change the world, but you can do something.”

Gunn, who travels the country giving presentations about his bicycle trip circumnavigating the globe, also rode parts of Iran and gave a TEDx talk there.

He said his volunteer work feeds his own soul.

“That’s the beautiful thing, when I give to others I give back to myself,” he said.

And the world needs more of that.

“When we all help in little ways, we help in a large way,” he said.

To donate or for more information, call Rick Gunn at 775-339-1344.

Teri Vance is a journalist, freelance writer and native Nevadan. Contact her with column ideas at terivance@rocketmail.com.


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