Bikes for the World

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Donated Bikes 'Loaned' in Costa Rica

Bikes for the World loaded a container heading to Costa Rica this past weekend. Bikes for the World supports Fundación Integral Campesina (FINCA Costa Rica), a micro-credit program founded in 1984 which currently serves thousands of low-income women (and some men) in rural areas of this Central American country.     

The FINCA Costa Rica financial model consists of self-selected community groups, typically ranging in number from 10 to 30 or more members, who pool their savings and receive technical assistance from FINCA staff in managing the funds and making investments in individual member household and other micro-businesses.  The community groups often receive limited matching support through FINCA’s fundraising, including international grant and loans as well as small grants through local partnerships with urban Rotary clubs in the country’s more affluent Central Valley. 

Bikes for the World support dates to 2005 and represents a significant and surprising departure from FINCA Costa Rica’s traditional business model—managing money—in large part because the availability of bicycles at affordable prices responds to a community need and has proven popular with the community groups. Over the last nine years, BfW has donated more than 18,000 bikes to FINCA.

A typical arrangement is to bring a container holding approximately 500 Bikes for the World-donated bikes into a district, invite representatives of the participating local groups, and unload and allocate the bikes among the groups presented.  Each allotment of bikes is valued and converted into a loan.  The groups bring the bikes and any available parts back to their respective communities, where they re-assemble and recondition the bikes as necessary. They then sell them  to association members and to members of the community at large.  FINCA Costa Rica is repaid and any net profit is then reinvested in the community enterprise and invested in members’ individual businesses.

Examples of beneficiaries. Superación Femenina is one of the first Bikes for the World beneficiaries to take advantage of this unique micro-finance opportunity. Another is Marco Vinicio, an individual beneficiary whose bicycle helped increase sales in his business in San José. 

Further examples, and photos are contained in a Washington Post article from July 2011.   The reporter and a photographer (seen right, in Costa Rica) visited several Bikes for the World community collection events in the Washington DC region, and interviewed the donors of selected bikes.  The team then followed the selected bikes to Costa Rica, where the bikes got into the hands of adults going to work, and children using them to attend school.  

FINCA Costa Rica is one of our most effective overseas partners.  Over the years, it has developed an impressive resume, receiving support from international, public national, and private agencies including the Inter-American Development Bank and my former USG agency, the Inter-American Foundation.

Contributed by Keith Oberg, Executive Director, Bikes for the World

Monday, April 7, 2014

Service Above Self

Bikes for the World 'fines' Richard Foot this month in recognition of our featured volunteer series. Fellow Rotarians will recognize and understand this 'fining' immediately. Dick, pay up.

Dick Foot is a member of the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek (RCCC). During Club meetings the President will 'fine' a member as a way of recognizing them for their accomplishments or to share what's going on in their life. President of the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek, Fred Genau, this is your ticket to fine Dick Foot, BfW volunteer of the month of April.

This year in their annual Bikes for the World bike drive, the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek collected 149 bikes that will be donated globally over the next few months.

This isn't even a personal best. Over the years the Club has collected over 1300 bikes for Bikes for the World. And although we are naming Dick Foot as our volunteer of the month, there are a lot of people behind the success of this collection.

Zoltan Nagy, also a member of the same Rotary Club, ran very successful bike drives annually in Frederick. During his tenure as collection manager, RCCC collected 201, 254, and 240 bikes. Fred, fine Zoltan too.

This year the Club moved the collection across town to Triangle Motors. And despite major traffic delays on Route 15, the bike collection had a successful turn out, come hell or high water. A water main break forced a busy Rt. 15 into one lane having some donors racing the clock to make it on time.

The success of this year's collection included a lot of planning and even more outreach. Dick did a tremendous job reaching out to the community and gaining support from a number of businesses and individuals. Almost too many to mention.

Shane Sellers, seen above, delivered a few truck loads of bikes to the collection that he collected over the year at Frederick Community College. Bike shops, Wheelbase, The Bicycle Escape, and 3-Points Cycle kicked in their support and encouragement.

The Frederick News Post and Gazette helped advertise the collection. Zoltan even did a radio interview about Bikes for the World. Several donors credit these news outlets to alerting them about the collection AND introducing them to Bikes for the World.

The Rotaract Club of Hood College and the Interact Club of Thomas Johnson High school all kicked in to help promote the collection and volunteer this past weekend.

RCCC Rotarian Jean-Louis LePage has also been a tremendous help to Dick throughout the year to help make this collection a success. Jean-Louis stored bikes at his downtown sign business and will continue to collect bikes over the next year as well.

So you see it's almost unfair to name just one man for this month's featured volunteer. But in his sophomore effort, Dick doubled the number of bikes collected from last year. His outreach before the collection was unprecedented. And his gratitude and thanks to everyone involved was expressed time and time again.

Congratulations Rotary Club of Carroll Creek, for a job well done, yet again. Keep up the great work!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bohol Beneficiary Update

Bikes for the Philippines (BfP) is expanding its Bikes for Education project to include a second school district, in Maribojoc, on the island of Bohol. After about a six month delay the training of the beneficiaries will begin next week.

In November 2012, Bikes for the World sent a second container of donated bikes to Manila to support adding this second school district, Pagnituan National High School. The pilot effort, in neighboring Baclayon, has been a huge success. When the program started in 2011-2012 the drop out rate for Baclayon was 4.5%; today that rate is 1.67%. Nationally the rate for the 2011-2012 school year was 7.8%.

Our donated bikes were met in Manila by a large volunteer network mobilized by Bikes for the Philippines. The central warehouse allows bikes to be refurbished by these volunteers before they are shipped to the smaller island of Bohol.

In September 2013, the Philippine Navy delivered 190 refurbished bicycles and spare parts to two projects, a smaller school effort on the island of Cebu and the larger school district, Pagnituan National High School in Bohol. The Bohol bikes were to be stored in Baclayon at Peacock Garden Resort where the bikes were secure and under cover, but not completely out of the weather pattern soon to come.

On October 15, 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the region, rocking Maribojoc which was situated right on top of the North Bohol Fault Line, where the earthquake originated. Access to Maribojoc was immediately cut off from the capital when the main bridge leading into the village collapsed. Supplies would be ferried into town by tiny shipping boats.

All schools in the district suffered tremendous structural damage. Outdoor classrooms were set up under makeshift tents and villagers were living in shelters or compromised structures. Three weeks later the Super Typhoon Haiyan hit. The eye of the storm swung north of Bohol, devastating the island of Leyte. Much of Bohol's water and electric were generated from this island and wiped out in the typhoon.

With the kids unable to attend school and the community shaken from two major natural disasters back to back, it was clear the bike program would need to be suspended for the time being. BfP shifted efforts to rebuilding Maribojoc and began delivering things like rice and books to the struggling community.

April 2014. Currently, BfP  is poised to begin training beneficiaries  first thing next month (April). After spending some time in the elements, our bikes sitting at Peacock Gardens could use a little TLC maintenance, which will be completed by two students beneficiaries from our pilot program in Baclayon.

Jake Palijado
The Mayor of Maribojoc and the Department of Education worked together to designate two classrooms in Pagnituan that will serve as a warehouse and makeshift repair shop. Once they graduate next month, Jake Palijado and Hermongenes Pocot will assess and repair the bikes to be loaned to the next round of beneficiaries in Maribojoc. These two graduates will also serve as mentors and role models to the new beneficiaries in Pagnituan.

Meanwhile, Bikes for the Philippines is already looking at where the next container of bikes will be placed. Marikina, a school district on the island of Luzon (where Manila is located) and another on the island of Cebu are currently being evaluated. Storage, volunteer hands, and transportation continue to be a consideration especially given the complications that arose in Bohol during the latest round of storms, not to mention the ship transport and the exposure to salt water and sea air the bikes experienced.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Promoting Local Business

Rita Putebil Courtesy Jason Finch
Continuing our series on Village Bicycle Project (VBP) today we focus on the advanced mechanic class. Last year we introduced you to Rita Putebil, an 18 year old student who participated in the advanced class in Laabissi.

During training she asked questions and volunteered for every demonstration. She impressed the training team so much they stayed an extra day to show her further skills like pulling cranks and adjusting hub assemblies. VBP gifted her a set of tools and she is now maintaining the bikes in Laabissi.

Newly trained mechanics in Biama
Just last month VBP returned to the field traveling to three villages in the Brong-Ahafo Region. With the support of Re~Cycle VBP carried with them 260 bikes and 800 tools that would be distributed among participants in their workshops.

During the one-day workshops new bike owners learn every day maintenance and simple skills like how to fix a flat. People who have taken this class in the past are invited back for a more advanced mechanics class when the team returns. Some participants received their bikes over four years ago.

Local supply shop
Many local bike parts and supplies are very expensive, some hard to come by. Tubes and tires made for the American market are often of a higher quality rubber that they are preferred even used over the new tubes available in Africa.

This is why your donated parts, tubes, and tires are so important to Bikes for the World. We pass those on, packing them under cranks and between frames when we ship a container to Africa. VBP then ferries them across Ghana and into the local markets where your donated bikes end up.

New bike owners are taught only the basic upkeep of a bike in the one-day workshop. VBP trainers then pass along the local mechanic's contact information and encourage bike owners to visit them for the more extensive repairs. Promoting local business and mechanics is a high priority in the program.

Biama mechanic Maxwell
In fact during the recent visit to Biama, VBP trainers sought out the known local mechanic to invite him to the classes. They found Maxwell who was eager to participate.

Maxwell helped the trainers in class and then received further training that will help him in his business. He learned how to extract cranks, break chains, and adjust hub assemblies, just like Rita from last year. VBP also gifted him with a set of tools and promoted his business throughout the classes.

Biama, by the way, is known as 'the place where nobody will go'. Village Bicycle Project went, they taught, they conquered the complex workings of the bicycle and passed that knowledge on to keep your old bike rolling and in good shape. In case you were wondering, the 'rust' color in the photo above in not actual rust, it's Ghanaian dirt.

Monday, March 10, 2014

2 Wheels, 1 Bike


Bikes for the World has been working with the long established Village Bicycle Project (VBP) in Ghana, and now Sierra Leone, since we began shipping bikes in 2005.  Since then, we have donated 13,101 bikes to the project. One of our containers shipped late last year just arrived in Accra, Ghana and another is on the way right now. Since 2005 we have donated 28 containers to VBP-Ghana and another 3 to VBP-Sierra Leone.

Once bikes come into VBP's central warehouse location in Accra they are offloaded and reloaded onto trucks that will deliver them to remote villages throughout Ghana. VBP does more than just deliver used bikes, they offer beginner and advanced workshops to new and old bike owners in rural Africa.

This past February they loaded 260 bikes to be delivered among three villages in Ghana's Brong-Ahafo Region, about a day's drive from the warehouse in Accra. Bodaa, Biama, and Asiri all received bikes and training through VBP during this trip.

In Bodaa, 60 people participated in the one-day workshop offered by VBP. Because of their enrollment in the program, participants were able to purchase a bicycle at a significantly discounted price.

In Biama, 40 bikes went to a mix of farmers, teachers, and students. VBP trainers turned each one of these new owners into a mini-repairer, showing them basic bike maintenance and simple repair, like how to remove and replace a front tire and repair a puncture to the tube.

Evelyn Amoah
In the more populated area of Asiri, VBP distributed 160 bikes to new owners. These owners received their bikes along with this one day training class. They were also taught how to ride a bike if they didn't already know. Many young girls do not know how to ride, making this aspect of the workshop essential.VBP knows the importance of empowering a woman with a bike, like new owner Evelyn Amoah who will use her new bike to help transport goods to market from the family farm.

VBP also offers a more in depth advanced mechanics class as part of this rural outreach. Each student learns the more complex skills involved in bike mechanics from a VBP trainer. They are then able to purchase discounted bike tools that will enable them to help maintain the bikes in the community. Some participants in the advanced mechanic class in Bodaa actually received their bikes through the VBP one-day four years ago. Check back tomorrow for more on the mechanics trained in this project...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Women are the Hub of the Community

Bikes for the World partner Village Bicycle Project joined forces with Re~Cycle and The Bicycle Factory to celebrate International Women's Day in a unique and yet ordinary way. Put simply, they do what they do best, delivered bikes to remote villages in Ghana. This latest shipment helped empower many new female bike owners.

Village Bicycle Project (VBP) has been focused on getting bikes into the hands of women and young girls for several years now. To quote VBP, "the truth is, women run Ghana; they run the home, the compound, the neighborhood, the community, and so on..."

Many of our partners overseas have recognized the power of women within a family and community. Whether they are running errands, increasing product to market, or serving as the family school bus, women are using the bicycle to change their world for the better.

VBP kicked off February with a special delivery of bikes to the Suhum-Kraboa-Coaltar District. Actually, this was a shipment of brand new bikes to the students of Otwebediadua School through Cadbury's Bicycle Factory project. VBP taught these students how to ride and care for their new bikes.

In all 20  new bikes were delivered to the school. VBP introduced bikes to 15 students, 11 of them had never been on a bike before. VBP trainers, through their Learn2Ride program, taught these students basic riding skills as well as showing them how to care for their new bikes.

Asamoah Dorcas
In Ghana, women such as Asamoah Dorcas, may use a bicycle to help transport goods to market. Asamoah had been head loading heavy loads, which can cause spine damage. The bicycle will allow her to carry even heavier loads safely and in less time.

Evelyn Amoah is from Offuman in the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana. She owns a shop as well as helping on the family farm. The bike she received through the Re~Cycle/VPB effort will help transport crops from the farm to the town market, 5km away. "I will use my bike to take crops to the market," says Evelyn. Her daughters will also use the bike to get to school.

A bicycle donated overseas is often shared between family members and sometimes throughout a village. Because many women in these communities do not know how to ride a bicycle, the Learn2Ride program initiated by VPB is critical to empowering these women to better serve their families and create a better way of life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Top Shops

This month Bikes for the World would like to recognize our many shop partners who help give our donors a convenient location to drop off a bicycle year round...even when our community led collections are dormant.

In 2013 13% of our bike donations (about 2,000 bikes) came in through our local drop off points at our bike shop partners. We also worked with some of the same partners during our regular collection schedule to bring in another 500 bikes.

Race Pace Bicycles
Bikes for the World partners with 14 local shops in MD, VA, and DC all of whom collect bikes year round, issue receipts on our behalf, and store bikes until we can schedule a pick up. Some shops, like Race Pace Bicycles in Maryland and Spokes Etc. in Virginia collect at ALL of their locations and even transport the donated bikes to one shop so we can make one stop and collect about 60 bikes at a time. This makes scheduling our pick ups more efficient and helps us collect more bikes weekly.

Jan and Helen at Bikenetic
Many bike shops, especially in the DC area, are very cramped for space. Those who have warehouse space often have it off site from their actual bike shop, meaning any donations they take for us would need to be transported to another location and stored.

Some shops also save tires and parts for us, which can build up quickly, and as you can imagine mountain bike tires can really take up space. Our shop partners typically store these items for us for several months at a time. Donations to Bikes for the World require a significant commitment to space sharing by our shop partners, for which we are very grateful.

Many of the bikes coming to BfW through bike shops would otherwise end up in the local landfill or recycling bin. Once bike owners find out how much it would cost to repair an old bicycle some turn their attention to the sales floor. When they learn that their old bike could be helping someone live a better life it's often easier to part with their beloved bicycle.

The Mahleys donated two NEW bikes
In other cases, donors are drawn to the shops because they already know they want to donate a bike to Bikes for the World. It's not unusual to find a generous donor, especially around Christmastime, who will buy a brand new bike only to turn around and immediately donate it to BfW.

Last year the Mahleys brought two new Treks from Spokes Etc. that will be shipped out later this year. A mechanic from Race Pace bought and donated 10 new Kona bikes that were shipped to Kenya last year.

Dillard collection at Spokes Ashburn
Although our shop partners like to keep track of how many bikes they donate to us...Race Pace and City Bikes both donated over 500 bikes in the last three years and Spokes donated over 1,000...they are more than supportive of our community driven collections as well.

Some of our partners, like Pedal Pushers in Severna Park, host dedicated bike collections at their shops. All of our partners will help advertise another collection and sometimes give up their supply of bikes to help seed a local collection, like the Eagle project coming up at REI in Fairfax.

For a full list of our partnering shops and this month's BfW All-Stars visit our website.