Jeff Chipman, a geologist with Earth Data, Inc. in Centreville, recently left his comfort zone to go on a mountain biking trip in Guatemala which benefitted women in third-world countries. Although he was raised in Utah and accustomed to outdoor sports, including whitewater rafting, he was relatively new to mountain biking.
“This part of the world really interests me. I like the people, I like the culture, and I like the food of Central America. Specifically, as a geologist, there are also several active volcanoes throughout this region,” Chipman states.
He had been looking to book a trip to Guatemala in December of 2022 when his sister contacted him to tell him that there was a women’s nonprofit group, World Ride, that was offering a co-ed mountain biking trip in Guatemala that same month. World Ride works to empower women globally through mountain biking. They have established programs around the world where they work with local women to create bike libraries, assist women with leadership and guide training, and support women with their race goals.
“What was neat about this nonprofit is that it trains local women in third world countries to be mountain bike guides in these eco-tourism destinations and the proceeds from the trips get funneled back to the local communities for women’s rights groups and women’s causes,” Chipman adds.
“Although I wasn’t down there like building schools or anything like that, it was rewarding to see my trip support a good cause.”
According to Chipman, who took the trip in December, the people live a very isolated life in the mountains of Guatemala. He observed that it was not an everyday occurrence for the people he encountered on the trails each day to see mountain bikes.
“In addition, I was made aware of the repressed, traditional culture for women in the mountains of Guatemala. These women are expected to make textiles and farm, but not do mountain biking. Mountain biking is a male sport there. Although the people had very few resources in the mountains, including water or electricity, they were some of the happiest people I have ever seen,” he adds.
“Travel is a good thing for everyone to do. Whether that’s traveling outside of your state, or outside of your country, experiencing different people and cultures is a very beneficial thing for many, many different reasons. Going into a third-world country especially gives you that huge perspective that ‘stuff’ doesn’t matter. For the overwhelming majority of the people I met and talked to, you could tell that they were more than willing and happy to talk to you and help you in any way – even if they didn’t have resources.”
In thinking about future opportunities to travel and contribute to the world, Chipman hoped to find future opportunities like World Ride. He concludes, “Supporting women in these third-world countries makes me want to find and do more. There is work to be done in these places and I’d like to a part of it.”
“Seeing our employees take trips like this for their vacations is very heartwarming for me. Our company embraces community service throughout the year. I believe we need to leave the world a better place than we found it. We are people who work hard and want to help, not only our clients but our community,” comments Mark Williams, President of Earth Data, Inc.
For more than 48 years, Earth Data, Inc. has been providing field-oriented water resources and geospatial consulting services using high-tech tools to collect, analyze, manage, and distribute data in sophisticated ways. For further information, visit earthdatainc.com.