Meet Christine Amour-Levar, the first Filipina who crossed Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail using fatbikes while raising awareness and funds to help Asian women severely affected by climate change.
Christine Amour-Levar, the HER Planet Earth Founder and CEO, took a 10-member all-female international team of the non-profit organization HER Planet Earth on the pioneering 6-day biking expedition that has never before been achieved by a women’s group.
The team successfully raised their target total of $50,000 for underprivileged women affected by climate change in Asia.
The group’s mission cites how in the past decade, climate-related disasters that have led to the loss of 700 thousand lives, 1.7 billion people affected, and economic losses of USD 1.4 trillion, have disproportionately affected women and girls who suffered multiple discriminations.
The team chose to raise funds for United Nations Women-United Kingdom whose programs support the economic empowerment of women in rural areas of Asia, more specifically, in countries most affected by climate change, such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
The programs funded by the amount raised in the expedition will provide:
- Leadership and life skills training for women and women’s networks operating in disaster-prone areas
- Pilot and scale up climate-resilient livelihoods projects supporting women to manage agricultural businesses in at-risk areas
- Promote gender-responsive disaster risk management policies that address the gender inequalities of risk
Good News Pilipinas interviewed Christine Amour-Levar and learned more about her Greenland expedition, Filipino heritage, and advocacies.
Amour-Levar is a philanthropist, adventurer, and entrepreneur who was born to a French-Swiss father and a Filipina mother from the Araneta clan.
She is also an author who has written for Forbes and Huffpost and continues to write for Straits Times Newspaper of Singapore, Thriveglobal.com, Expat Living Magazine, among many other publications.
She grew up between Manila, Paris, and Tokyo and is currently based in Singapore, where she lives with her husband and four children.
The HER Planet Earth leader recounts how she left Manila in 1990 and went to live in Japan, the United States, France, and finally moved to Singapore in 2005. She regularly visits the Philippines, flying out from her Singapore base.
LEADING HER PLANET EARTH
The women’s welfare advocate has been organizing all-female trips around the world for the past eight years, via the work of her two NGOs – Women on a Mission and HER Planet Earth. These expeditions have taken her team to places like the Himalayas, Antarctica, Iceland and to regions in the Middle East and Africa.
Amour-Levar credits her ability to continue her remote adventures to her husband and children who are “very supportive of my work to empower and support underprivilege and vulnerable women, and each time I come home, they welcome me with warmth and kindness.”
The Greenland Arctic Circle Trail expedition had Christine and her team biking the grueling course from March 4-14, 2020.
The HER Planet Earth Team battled temperatures of -20 to -40 degrees Celsius, rode across 200km on all types of snow, ice, mud and rock, cycled up and down many hills and mountain passes and crossed vast frozen, crackling lakes.
“The days were long and tiring,” Amour-Levar said, as they continued on the journey “with no shelter from the cold and wind for up to 8-10 hours each day, which sometimes even saw us reach our hut for the evening in complete darkness.”
But the team kept going. “Yes, it’s true, the biking expedition was difficult, but it also surpassed all my expectations in terms of the scale and beauty of the landscape, the physical and emotional challenge of the experience, and the strength of the bond we formed as a team.
“The days on the trail were long and tiring, with no shelter from the bitter cold and wind for up to ten hours each day. Despite the grueling conditions, the team spirit was very strong. The teammates looked after one another with kindness and compassion, which makes all the difference,” she adds.
Christine Amour-Levar also declares, “I am incredibly proud to be the First Filipina to Cross Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail. I was born and raised in the Philippines, one of the most beautiful, warm and hospitable countries in the world, and even though I have not lived there for many years, I carry the love of my country deep in my heart wherever I go. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!”
CLIMATE CHANGE AMID COVID-19
The HER Planet Earth team started their fatbiking trip with just a few reports of the coronavirus disease and came out in the midst of a global pandemic that is still raging.
“The team and I felt lucky that we had been able to push through with our expedition – a unique challenge which we had been planning for over a year. In fact, we had been monitoring the situation carefully, keeping our fingers crossed that this fundraising and awareness-building expedition could still go ahead,” she shares.
“When at the end of our journey, we finally rode into the coastal fishing town of Sisimiut, on March 12 and reconnected to the outside world and with our families via WIFI, we realised that in the span of a week, the pandemic had exploded.
“We had returned to a world in carnage with the number of infections skyrocketing across Europe and the United States especially. After days in isolation, the onslaught of bad news was almost too much. It’s as if we had been cocooned in the Arctic – shielded from the world, a short moment suspended in time.
“The day after we flew out of Greenland, the island shut down its borders. There was a first positive case of Covid-19 in Nuuk, the nation’s capital. As a result, the government decided to take swift action to safeguard its 56,000 inhabitants – 90% of whom are Inuit indigenous people – from the spread of the virus. Our team flew home as countries everywhere were going into lockdown, grateful for this incredible adventure we had been able to live and experience together.”
Asked how she situates her cause for women affected by Climate Change in the midst of a global health emergency that affects all sectors, Amour-Levar maintains that addressing the welfare of women and children remains crucial.
“Despite the growing fear about the virus in our midst, we cannot let our fight to mitigate climate change and protect its most impacted (underprivileged women and children) be forgotten.
“In a sense, this pandemic may lead us to a deeper awareness of the ties that bind us all as human beings, and help us get to grips with our biggest emergency and long-term existential threat – the climate crisis.
“Indeed, what is happening with our changing climate will surely shape humanity’s future and survival, sooner than we think. The question is whether each of us will do our part to safeguard our planet and it’s most vulnerable, or simply be a bystander.”
Filipina women have gone on various humanitarian missions to aid women, children, and the poor. Among them are 3 Filipina volunteers who were given Dutch Royal Honors, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez who overcame adversity to advocate women empowerment, and Catriona Gray who raises funds for the welfare of children.
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