Cook-Deegan Biked Across SE Asia

Patrick Cook-Deegan looked up from his bicycle and discovered he was no longer in Providence, RI, but in the hills of Burma. Through both pictures and words, Cook-Deegan shared a younger perspective on global service during Wednesday’s All-School Meeting to inspire students to become active global citizens. Cook-Deegan, currently a senior at Brown University, founded the Cycle for Schools organization to fund schools in Southeast Asia after an inspiring visit to the area. He was originally recruited to Brown as an all-American lacrosse player, but a world tour, which included a visit to Southeast Asia, during the summer after his sophomore year “opened his eyes” to the world abroad. Cook-Degan said he was inspired to start Cycle for Schools by real-life stories . During his stay in a village in Laos, Cook-Deegan witnessed the decrepit condition of the village school, a one-room hovel for approximately 750 village children. “It put into perspective what I’ve been given here [in America],” he said. After creating the Cycle for Schools program in conjunction with Room to Read, an organization dedicated to building schools in Southeast Asia, Cook-Deegan recruited sponsors for his bike ride through Southeast Asia. Cook-Deegan said that the original goal was to raise just enough to construct one primary school in Laos, approximately $15,500. In the end, he raised over $22,500, enough to build a library with the school and to fund two K-12 scholarships for girls in Cambodia. “I basically called every single person I had ever met asking for their money,” Cook-Deegan said. Cook-Deegan made his 2,800-mile trip across Southeast Asia in the summer of 2006, a year after his first visit to the area. The Burmese stories of harsh lifestyles stirred Cook-Deegan to become an advocate for the liberation of Burma. Cook-Deegan also met a boy whose leg was blown off by a landmine, which the military had planted after it burned down the village in order to prevent village residents from returning to retrieve food. Upon his return to the U.S., Cook-Deegan took a year off from college and has been speaking about his experience at high schools and universities across the country. He also became an active spokesperson and Northeast Coordinator for the U.S. Campaign for Burma, an organization based in Washington D.C. Burma has been ruled under a military dictatorship since 1962, and has been plagued by political problems for over 40 years. In September 2007, over 500,000 people led by monks protested throughout the country against the military dictatorship. Throughout his presentation, Cook-Deegan encouraged students to become involved as global citizens. “It’s not that hard, difficult, or magical to make a difference.”