2015 Rider Profile: Fiona Phillippe Grugan

Meet Fiona Phillippe Grugan, tenth in our get-to-know-the-riders series.  The 2015 PA-to-DC ride  will take place May 1-5.


I am choosing to join this ride to Washington DC not because of the health benefits of being able to ride so many miles on a bike, and not because it’ll be a great trip with my new husband and my mom (though it will be). I choose to ride because I recently married into an amazing extended family of Haitian-Dominican farmers, and I want to protect them because family is family.

When I first met my husband, Tony, I was studying abroad in the Dominican Republic. Tony is Haitian-Dominican, though he was born and raised in the Dominican Republic. Due to a complicated political situation, Tony’s parents were separated when he was young. Today, Tony’s mother lives in Haiti, while the rest of his family lives in the Dominican Republic. Mama Maria lives in a part of Haiti that is so rural that it can only be reached on foot or by motorcycle. It’s a pretty complicated trip despite the short distance, so two years after I met Tony, I still had not made it over the border. Mama Maria decided it was high time to meet me, so I pulled it together and stuffed a couple t-shirts and some deodorant in my backpack. Tony and I caught a bus on the highway out of the Dominican Republic.

During my many visits to the Caribbean, the weather has always fallen somewhere between hot and sweltering. However, by the time we decided to visit Haiti, I was used to the temperature. When we got off the bus at the Haitian border, we went through customs and walked through the gate from the Dominican Republic into Haiti. A wall of dry heat hit me. The effect was nearly instantaneous. As we headed out of the border town and into the countryside towards Tony’s mother, I discovered the source of the dramatic change in the climate. The landscape around me was completely dry and devoid of trees. When I asked, Tony told me that all the trees had been cut for firewood. When we finally reached Tony’s mother’s house, I learned that she had something special. In her backyard was a tree just large enough to provide some shade. It was a small tree that she had nurtured from a seedling, and yet, it served as a gathering place for the whole village.   They enjoyed its shade when the day was too hot to move.

I have seen the effects that climate change has on the people least able to protect themselves from it in the drying riverbeds, heat waves, and extreme weather Tony’s family members have had to contend with. While I loved my trip to Haiti, I was relieved to leave and escape the heat. The little tree my mother-in-law nurtures in her backyard required protection and care until it was big enough to be a source of cooling shade just as our earth needs care to continue to protect the people who are most effected by climate change. I am riding to DC to make the world a better place for my new family in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Donate online to PA IPL in support the PA-to-DC riders (or send a check, memo: bike 2015 to PA IPL 2100-C East College Ave., State College, PA 16801)

MANY THANKS to our 2015 silver sponsors Sun Directed and Beth Richards, KBB Realtor,
and bronze sponsors Freeze Thaw Cycles  and the Rock Ethics Institute for their support!
Learn about sponsoring PA IPL. Become a sponsor.

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