Korean Rotary club gives visually-impaired a chance to ride

A Rotary member in a blue vest adjusts the helmet for a visually-impaired rider.
Volunteer Shin Tae Byull adjusts the helmet of his riding partner at the start of the 24-kilometer ride.

By Seoha Lee
Photos by Seongjoon Cho

Early one morning in late October, members of the Rotary Club of Cheongju Dream, Korea, gathered with volunteers at Mushimcheon River Park, Cheongju, Korea. Excitement filled the air as visually-impaired individuals, young and old, arrived with social worker companions for a four-hour tandem bicycle ride.

Every year for the past five years, the club has hosted the ride for residents of Gwanghwawon, a group home for people with visual impairment. For many of the residents, it’s a rare chance to get outside their facility, as many of them also have other disabilities that require one-on-one care. The pandemic forced the 2021 ride to be delayed until this May. But the 2022 ride went ahead as usual in October.

Rotary members or other volunteers are paired with a visually-impaired resident. Rotary members or volunteers ride in the front seat and describe the landscape as they pedal past fields of silver grass, cosmos flowers swaying in the wind, sun sparkling off the river under a blue autumn sky. The riders are coached beforehand to go slow and take frequent stops. They take a break in the middle for lunch before the route turns back toward the river park.

  • A group of Rotary members and volunteers stand in a group in front of a row of tandem bikes.
  • A Rotary member in a blue vest has his arm around the shoulder of a visually-impaired resident in a red bike helmet during a break in the ride.
  • A row of bicycles progresses down a bike path near a green walking trail, skyline of the city in background.
  • A tandem bike progresses down the bike path, city skyline in the background.
  • Tandem bicycle riders cross a bridge over the river.

During the pairing of riders, club member Min Ho Kim noted how his riding partner, Sang Min Lee, had also been his partner for the previous ride in May. “He is a good partner and good at riding a bicycle. Today will be a wonderful day!”

Jae Heung Kim, a social worker at Gwanghwawon, recalled how the initiative began five years ago when the group home asked the club to start a ride for their residents. Now, many of the residents look forward to the event every year.

A song competition was held after lunch. Everyone who sings receives a gift voucher. Won Jung Kim, who is known in the group home as a singer, was the first to grab the microphone and perform a familiar song, with everyone singing along. Another resident chose a K-pop song from one of their favorite bands.

The event showcases the club to the community, and serves as a recruitment opportunity. Seungho Shin, club secretary, who oversaw the preparations for this year’s ride, noted how the club received several membership queries afterward.

“It is natural that we feel great because we see how our friends at Gwanghwawon really enjoy it. Quite a few people joined the club after participating in riding as volunteers. Our members are all busy people, but no matter how busy we are, the bike riding will continue.”

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