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The Daily Tar Heel

Carrboro biker brings donations to Mexico

_CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, the original version of this story incorrectly stated the translation of Vidas de Esperanza. The phrase translates as Lives of Hope, not Lives for Hope.
The article also incorrectly stated that the program is based out of Carrboro when it operates out of multiple locations in the Triangle. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the errors._

On an intense training day, Ascary Arias can be found biking around Carrboro for four hours.

During easy workouts, he bikes for at least an hour and lifts weights for two more.

But Arias doesn’t bike as a hobby or to keep in shape — he’s training for a 2,330 mile bike trip from Greensboro to Ixmiquilpan, Mexico.

As president of Vidas de Esperanza (Lives of Hope), a nonprofit based in Carrboro, Arias will set out on an 18-day fundraiser on Aug. 1 to provide the Ixmiquilpan community with supplies ranging from construction equipment to children’s toys.

A native of Ixmiquilpan, Arias returned home after living in the United States for 11 years in 2003.

“I realized what I escaped from — the reasons I left were still there,” he said.

At the time, Arias was studying sociology and Spanish at Greensboro College and turned to his professor Cheryl Brown for help.

“He talked to me when he got back,” said Brown, who is now the vice president of Vidas de Esperanza. “He said, ‘Listen, kids are still hungry, they still don’t have shoes. Nothing’s changed, except I can make a difference now.’”

Although it started out small, Vidas de Esperanza now aids more than 8,000 people annually by providing a combination of free clinics, health programs and donations.

“Vidas helps break through the barriers put up by social classes, economies, languages, cultures and governments to bring something as basic as a blood sugar level check to those without,” said Emily Silva, who has been to Mexico with Arias twice and is currently the director of marketing at Vidas de Esperanza.

Arias said his organization’s work is especially difficult because it works with a fragile community in a country known for corruption.

“It’s so hard to get the trust of the people you’re helping, especially in Mexico, that I cannot promise them I’m going to do something and then not do it because the trust sort of goes away,” he said.

For this reason, Arias said he never considered postponing his trip when he recently re-injured his back — despite being advised to do so by his trainer.

“They’ve been lied to and promised things by not only their own government but other agencies that have come in,” Brown said. “If we say we’re going to do it, we’re going to deliver no matter what, and I think the community certainly understands that now.”

Arias raised $40,000 when he first completed the route two years ago and said he hopes to raise even more this time.

Silva said raising this money is especially important because without this help, there are people who would be left with nothing.

“While Vidas’ volunteers help those less fortunate than ourselves, our mentality isn’t that of charity and sympathy,” she said. “Rather, it is of empathy and understanding that right now, it’s our job to share what we have.”

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