Billy Pan is no slacker. That declaration is probably an understatement when describing the Twin Cities resident and soon-to-be medical student. Before Pan sets off to the University of Southern California (USC) Medical School in August, the 23-year-old will pedal his way through China in hopes of raising money for a local Minnesota charity.
For most people who get into medical school, taking it easy the summer before their first grueling year of intense course study in medicine is optimal. Pan, however, has something else in mind.
He and two others plan to bike from Beijing to Hong Kong, China, a trip totaling 2,200 miles. The six-week cycling endeavor, which begins in June, includes stops at four orphanages for volunteer stints.
“I want to accomplish something that is meaningful to me,” said the Edina, MN, resident. “I want to go to China – not as a tourist – but as someone who cares about China’s orphans and hopefully makes a difference.”
Many would argue that Pan has already made a difference in the lives of Chinese orphans after a visit last year to two orphanages in southwestern and southeastern China. The 2007 USC graduate with a degree in biochemistry traveled in 2007 with a Minnesota non-profit group named Red Thread Charities on a medical trip. There, he says, he got his first glimpse at life for children with special needs in an institution.
“Red Thread Charities came with special education teachers, physical therapists, doctors and nurses and assessed the children and their needs,” said Pan. “They were there in 2006 on a medical trip to those same orphanages and I was told the change in the children was amazing. It was an honor to be a part of that experience.”
Red Thread Charities, created in 2006, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide training to orphanage staff and facilitate medical and developmental care for children. Red Thread currently sponsors two orphanages and sends a team of medical personnel to those orphanages every year. The Minnesota charity, led by Danling Cai, a former teacher and adoption executive, and an eight-member board, has also developed regional training and rehabilitation centers at the Lanxi and Guiping Social Welfare Institutes.
Since Pan speaks fluent Mandarin – China’s most popular language – he anticipates little problem with communication. His worry is the weather and his mother. Pan will be traveling during China’s rainy season – a fact that has him planning for “weather backup and any unforeseen illness.”
“I don’t like the fact that my mom will worry about me the entire trip,” said Pan. In light of that, Pan plans to carry a cell phone and planned stops are always within a reasonable distance of a city.
His route will take him from Beijing, where Pan plans to meet his former college roommate Steven Chen and Twin Cities attorney, Craig Roen, purchase his bikes and cycling gear, to Tianjin. From Tianjin, where the group plans to volunteer at an orphanage, he’ll travel to Nanjing with another orphanage stop. The next destination is Hangzhou and then on to Lanxi, where Pan was last year with Red Thread Charities. He’ll travel to Fuzhou and end his trip in Hong Kong.
Pan has created a blog, http://bikingchina.wordpress.com/ detailing his trip and plans to post daily. People can contribute to Pan’s cause through his blog. The proceeds from his trip will go to Red Thread Charities.
All told, Pan will bike anywhere from 30 to 34 days and log about 80 miles a day – an ambitious goal for anyone. But then Pan is no slacker.