Has your life ever changed while listening to a podcast? For Susy Willetts, Fifth Grade Math Teacher and Lower School Academic Coordinator, the Endurance Horse Podcast provided the spark for what has proven a unique and inspiring opportunity.
An accomplished endurance horse rider, lover of the outdoors, and history buff, Susy has an affinity for adventures and stories. A history major in college, she was fascinated with the tales of Genghis Khan conquering the Mongol steppe, in large part due to the rugged and hearty horses that allowed him to quickly cover vast distances and conquer a lot of tribal land. This love of history, combined with her riding experience, had already piqued her interest in races such as the Mongol Derby, the world’s longest horse race.
Susy was listening to Endurance Horse Podcast on her way to the Birdwood Campus one day this past fall and was immediately struck by the woman being interviewed, Julie Veloo. Julie was speaking about her organization, The Veloo Foundation, and work that they do for the Narnii Huuhduud (Children of the Peak) Kindergarten.
From their website
: A project designed to help alleviate the suffering and neglect of the most vulnerable and marginalized children in an Ulaanbaatar neighbourhood whose residents make a living and feed and clothe their families with items scavenged from the rubbish dump.
The major fundraiser for this program is the Gobi Gallop
, a 700 km charity ride across the Mongolian Steppe. Susy heard Julie speaking about this and immediately decides that this is what she was meant to do. “It was education, it was horses, it was adventure, it was challenging myself… It was for me.” She emailed Julie that day to offer her expertise, first as an educator for the Kindergarten, and had a series of exchanges that led to her being interviewed for the final spot on the endurance racing team.
Of Julie, Susy says, “I really liked her, everything about her. We were supposed to be friends, if you love kids and horses this much, as much as I do, we were definitely supposed to be friends.” Susy secured her spot on the team, with 11 teammates from the UAE, Israel, Canada, The United States, and New Zealand. For her, the best part of this is that she gets to marry something that she really enjoys with the focus on charity that other races have been missing.
Susy will head to Mongolia in June to compete and to spend some time serving the school. She says, “I want to be a person of service, and a person of compassion. Living a life of adventure. Melding those two things is so special, having the opportunity to live that out in front of my students. I think it embodies the things we stand for as a school, it really is living well.” Susy told the Lower School students at Chapel on January 22 and is looking forward to the rest of the semester as she prepares for her trip of a lifetime.
Want to hear more about Susy or contribute to her fundraising? Check out her page
on the Veloo Foundation website.