IT WAS not a practice team or a team of partners, but a team of community-minded travellers that set off from Mallesons Stephen Jaques recently to embark on a cycling tour of Vietnam with Care Australia.
Among them was firm chairman Frank Zipfinger, who led the group of 20 to visit a Care Australia project in the Mekong Delta. The project, Clean Water for Schools, includes building toilets and hand-washing facilities at 37 schools, as well as health and sanitation education so that children in the area can stay healthy.
The team took part in the Highlands to Delta Challenge, a two-week cycling trip through Vietnam that raises money for Care Australia’s work with communities in developing countries, and provides the opportunity for participants to see this work firsthand.
The firm became involved though its Mallesons in the Community programme, Zipfinger told Lawyers Weekly. Care Australia was looking to pilot the programme to see whether it would work for their partners generally, so Mallesons took up this opportunity. There is “quite a lot of demand” for such opportunities within the firm, Zipfinger said, as people like to do something “hands on and personal”.
All Mallesons staff and their partners were invited, but only 20 took up the opportunity. “I brought two of my children, there were a couple of couples, and a couple of siblings. It was quite a good mixture. It was Mallesons people from across the network, from almost all our offices, including one from Hong Kong.”
The team flew over to Hanoi and had a day there to explore the city. “We visited the care offices in Hanoi, the head offices, and we had a briefing for a couple of hours about their Care programme. Vietnam is one of the countries they support,” he said.
“The next stage was a train down to Danang, an overnight trip, then a bus to Hoi An, an ancient city they have there. That is where you pick up the bikes. In this time we visited an orphanage, to see one of our Mallesons alumni, who used to work in our Perth office and who has been working over there as a volunteer for two years. It is a mixture of sight seeing, cycling, and seeing some Care facilities that we are helping to fund,” said Zipfinger.
“We rode bikes for six days, between 80 and 110 kilometres each day. We’d get up at six in the morning and leave at seven because we needed to cycle early before it got too hot in the day. We’d stop for lunch and then get into the town where we were staying at about five o’clock — in time to have a shower.”
Care Australia did a lot of preparatory work with the team, proving training routines, and telling them how much cycle training they needed to do each week, as well as what to bring in terms of gear and malaria tablets.
“We ended up in Saigon, Hoi Chi Min City. On the last day we flew down to the Mekong Delta, and from there we went out by boat to visit the two main facilities that we are sponsoring. The first is a school, where we are proving clean water and sanitation or the kids, and the second was these remote farming communities in the middle of nowhere where they provide cows and seeds to the farmers,” Zipfinger said.
Care Australia’s cycling trips allow people to experience teamwork and achieve personal goals, said Care Australia chief executive Robert Glasser. “But the most unique feature is that participants can visit a Care Australia project, seeing firsthand the dramatic changes their money is making topeople’s lives.”