As part of a Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram to South Africa some two years ago, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dent Tim Spittle vis­ited an orphanage for chil­dren who lost their par­ents to HIV/​AIDS. The expe­ri­ence, he said, shaped his human­i­tarian calling, and con­vinced him to pursue a career in raising aware­ness of public-​​health crises.

Now a junior, he is one of six col­lege stu­dents in the United States who is par­tic­i­pating this summer in the Ride Against AIDS 2011, a 4,000-mile bicycle trek from Cal­i­fornia to Boston aimed at raising money for Part­ners in Health’s HIV/​AIDS efforts in Rwanda.

When we talk about what we’re doing and about our mis­sion, people have been really touched by this and they think twice about what they can do,” he said.

Spittle, who com­peted in two triathlons last year, is well equipped to handle the phys­ical stress of the bike ride, which requires cyclists to pedal some 90 miles per day.

But the hardest part of the odyssey is spreading the word at each of their stops, where he and his team mem­bers e-​​mail Rotary Clubs, the local paper and the mayor’s office, and set up inter­views, pre­sen­ta­tions and meet­ings with youth groups.

As Spittle put it, “We do what­ever we can do.”

Since its incep­tion in 2007, Ride Against AIDS — run by the non­profit orga­ni­za­tion FaceAIDS — has raised more than $80,000. Spittle’s team expects to raise an addi­tional $20,000 over the course of their ride, which is expected to end in Boston on August 18.

Spittle’s summer on a bike dove­tails with the busi­ness major’s interest in Northeastern’s Social Enter­prise Insti­tute, through which he is taking classes in social entre­pre­neur­ship.  The insti­tute enables stu­dents to become glob­ally aware busi­ness leaders by pro­viding them with oppor­tu­ni­ties to help the poor in devel­oping coun­tries build their own small busi­nesses through micro-​​financing.

This is my big step toward finding a way to focus my career on the public-​​health sector,” he said.