Bikes for the World

Monday, June 6, 2016

Boys Will Be Boys

Pinelands Creative Workshop (PCW) began as a way to engage and educate some of the most under-served residents of Barbados. Situated on the border of the Pinelands community, PCW was poised to make a difference and change lives for the better.

PCW's initial efforts mainly included a focus on theatre and the arts. In this way, the organization was able to enlist the community to participate in productions while exploring topics of the day in a unique and engaging way.

Since its beginning in the seventies, PCW has undergone many transformations over the decades to include skills and life training programs for many residents in the community. They now offer computer classes, self defense classes, career preparedness programs, life skills activities, and summer youth camps in addition to their original focus on arts and sports.

In 2005, PCW added bike mechanics to that growing list of training options. By partnering with Bikes for the World, PCW also added a little capital to the program. After fixing up our donated bikes, PCW sold refurbished bikes at a low cost to the community which helped fund their growing Meals on Wheels program.

More notably, this newly added bike program helped make PCW much more relevant by adding an important development platform for youth. Boys were lining up to join this program, earn a little pocket money, learn about bikes, and gain experience using tools while learning a skill.

Zidane, Michausa, Nathaniel, and Stephen
Zidane, Michausa, and Nathaniel joined the bike program a couple years ago. They are trained by Ronald and Stephen who see the program has much more to offer than just revenue generated to help fund programs:

There are softer and more long term benefits for the young men we work with. They learn about respect for people and property, about managing time and finishing a job in the best way they can, they learn about conflict resolution and they learn to take pride in their work and after all the work is done they feel proud to see a person walk out with a bike that they worked on.

Danny at work
Before boys had this outlet at PCW, Ronald says he often saw fights breaking out between the adolescents. Now they can direct their energy into something more productive. 

Danny’s mom was especially impressed with her son’s enthusiasm and dedication during the time he was with the bicycle initiative; she confessed that he was excited about going to work and that his new-found responsibility infected the rest of his life. He was more active at home and around the house and he was ready and willing to take on new tasks. It was like the experience matured him, he was a “serious” young man.

Friday, June 3, 2016

From Wheels To Meals

Supporting diverse programs is one of the ways Bikes for the World is able to affect so many lives around the world in a multitude of ways. Our bike project provides affordable transportation, creates jobs, encourages education, and supports adult and youth programs beyond just bikes.

One of our main criteria for partners receiving bikes is that the project or organization is sustainable. Because our donated bikes are shipped 'as is' many of them are in need of repair and/or parts when they arrive. A majority of our partner organizations provide training and actual mechanic jobs to disadvantaged community members who fix and maintain these donated bikes, creating jobs to help support their families.

Bikes are then sold at a low cost to residents within the community who are in need of valuable transportation. Money generated through the program helps support the mechanics and project. More often than not, the surplus revenue is reinvested in the organization which in turn benefits the entire community.

In Barbados, our bike program is helping to support many aspects of Pinelands Creative Workshop. Funds generated through the bike project have helped offset administrative and program costs within the organization. PCW itself focuses on positive change within the community of Pinelands. Programs focused on the arts such as theatre, dance and music provide an educational, creative outlet for youth after school. Additionally, PCW offers career training, professional and undergraduate education, and general support to its struggling neighbors.

Sophia Greaves-Broome, Special Projects Director with the Marcus Garvey Resource and Development Centre (MGRDC) the Training Arm of the PCW states, “The bicycle project has allowed the MGRDC to deliver quality and relevant programs at the community level responding to expressed needs of over 3000 residents who can be categorized as either unemployed, underemployed, unskilled, vulnerable and/or living in poverty.  Furthermore the injection of support has added considerable social value to the community and the empowerment of beneficiaries."

One such program supported through the bike project in Barbados is the Meals on Wheels program, which provides meals to elderly, shut-ins, and disabled individuals in and around the Pine. With funds generated by bicycle sales, PCW is able to pay cooks, purchase disposable food containers, and contribute to the overall cost of running the vehicles to collect and provide food.

Shelly Durant-Forde, Financial Manager of PCW had this to say, “While funding is received through other projects the bicycle project is the only project that has been consistent and dependable . Many days we have been able to provide lunch, bus-fare, gas, school books or some small contributions to persons in the community who had nowhere else to turn but the doors of the Workshop.  Without the bicycle project this would be impossible."

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Educating and Uplifting a Community Through Art

The Pinelands Creative Workshop program in Barbados was one of the original Bikes for the World partners. We started shipping to this organization in May of 2005 when we first formed as BfW. Since then we have donated over 11,000 bikes to help support the efforts of this community focused group. This month we will load our 24th container of bikes for Barbados.

 “We wanted theatre to be able to reflect the issues of our people. We were using theatre for a purpose – to educate, entertain and inform," Rodney Grant Director Pinelands Creative Workshop, Barbados.

Pinelands Creative Workshop (PCW) was first established in the mid 70s and has grown and adapted over the years to meet the needs of the community it serves. That community, affectionately known as "The Pines", lies two miles east of Bridgetown, the capital and largest city on the island. 

While Barbados itself is the wealthiest of the east Caribbean islands, the Pinelands is actually the largest low income community in Barbados. The community consists of mainly under-skilled young people and is characterized by high levels of unemployment. At one time, The Pines was viewed by many as a community with no future.

PCW was created to introduce a creative and productive outlet to a community mired in this negative perception. Phase one focused on cultural productions aimed at teaching and engaging the community.  Over the years they added sporting activities and eventually morphed into an even more productive organization by expanding their range of activities, which included the bike workshop BfW now supports. 

Today's PCW operates around its strong cultural development work which in turn provides cultural, commercial, economic, and social skills training to the community it continues to serve.

Rodney Grant has been with PCW for over 40 years now and was instrumental in its evolution into the organization it is today. By first telling the story of how Rodney came to PCW is essentially outlining the program's first success story.

“I would never forget one Sunday morning when Michael Newton caught me. He used to go and fix tyres and he saw me and told me to come with him. He put me on his motorcycle and took me down to Roebuck Street to fix some tyres with him. From then he developed an interest in me and used to let me tag along with him wherever he went. By tagging along with Michael, I kind of shifted my focus from doing negative things and tried to focus on community development and planning,” Grant said.

Michael ran the Pinelands Social Cultural Youth Group and reached out to a young Rodney who was on the cusp of straying down the wrong path. Michael signed Rodney up for the soccer team and introduced him to the positive change outreach could have on a community.

Rodney incorporated this into a life calling and helped form PCW a few years later. Through its original focus on dance, theatre, and arts, PCW has educated and uplifted a community in desperate need of hope. The organization continued to grow over the years to expand education programs, provide micro-business training, and even generate employment. The Pinelands community continues on its path of recovery using the resources from its uplifted residents thanks to the efforts of Rodney and Pinelands Creative Workshop.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Featured Volunteer: #CEBGivesBack

May marks a favorite month around Bikes for the World and it's not because it's Bike Month. For one week in May CEB, a best practice insight and technology company based in Rosslyn, trades keyboards and cell phones for wrenches and cans of WD40 to join us in the warehouse for some sweat, smiles, and manual labor. They claim BfW is an employee favorite and it's no secret the feeling is mutual.

This is the third year CEB and BfW partnered up for what is now known as CEB's Global Impact Week. For one week employees give back to their communities by engaging in community service projects around the world. In 2014 we scheduled one day with CEB, but it was so popular in 2015 they asked to do more. We signed them up for three days last year and this year we stretched it to four!

During their tenure with us, CEB employees have loaded five containers of bikes heading to partners in Costa Rica, Kenya, Barbados, Ghana, and El Salvador. CEB helped us donate 2,363 bikes to these diverse projects stretching across the world. During their service with us, they also helped prep hundreds of bikes for future shipments.

Last year  CEB assisted in loading a container that was donated to Costa Rican partner MiBici, part of FINCA Costa Rica. That shipment of bikes was delivered to Upala in northern Costa Rica.

FINCA Costa Rica helps deliver our large shipments of bikes to many small communities all over the country, sometimes splitting up the containers to serve many community groups per shipment. Because of the proximity to the coast and beaches, all of our beach cruisers, which are very popular in Costa Rica, are saved and sent to this group.

This almost new red cruiser, loaded by CEB, was delivered to Yorleny and Pedro. They also got a bike for their eight year old son Kevin. Yorleny now rides to school with her son saving the family a lot of time.

This year's CEB crew first loaded a container for Village Bicycle Project in Ghana then moved on to a second destined for CESTA El Salvador. We loaded 911 bikes during CEB's Global Impact Week.

Nearly 4,000 CEB staff members provided support to charitable organizations in 87 cities spanning 29 countries around the world during this year's annual Global Impact Week. As part of the enterprise-wide community service program, CEB employees collectively dedicated approximately 18,500 volunteer hours throughout the week.
About CEB:
CEB is a best practice insight and technology company. In partnership with leading organizations around the globe, we develop innovative solutions to drive corporate performance. CEB equips leaders at more than 10,000 companies with the intelligence to effectively manage talent, customers, and operations. CEB is a trusted partner to nearly 90% of the Fortune 500 and FTSE 100, and more than 70% of the Dow Jones Asian Titans. More at

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Another 700 Bike Weekend!

Hampton Fifth Graders
The weekend of May 21st marked another noteworthy weekend for Bikes for the World. Previously we bragged about our biggest weekend of the year, April 30-May 1, when we collected nearly 700 bikes. Well this past weekend, 20 days later, we topped that 2016 record!

We started the weekend with a rare Friday collection at a new partner school, Hampton Elementary in Lutherville MD. Turning over 40 bikes after a fun morning with the fifth graders and parents was a great start to this record weekend.

Saturday brought the rains and we braced ourselves for a lower turn out because of the weather. But a few rain drops wouldn't stop our supporters from coming out in force. That, and we had a little help from a new collection site in North Carolina where the sun was shining down brightly. Read more about our Carolina effort and this great collection at The Peak in Apex NC.
Also in our favor was a secret weapon in Glenwood MD...the Glenwood LEO Club. This club, seen here last fall, collected bikes throughout the year and stored them at the school. When their collection began Saturday morning they already had over 200 bikes donated! At the end of the day they had a personal best with 245 bikes collected in 2016.

Special thanks to Race Pace Bicycles in Ellicott City, Howard County's Clean Out Day, the Lions Club effort at the Alpha Ridge Recycling Center, and the police drop off at Glenwood for helping this crew collect so many bikes this year.

Matthew Dirndorfer and his crew of drivers
Less than 20 miles away our team was busy playing bike Tetris in a Penske truck. Eagle candidate Matthew Dirndorfer from troop 268 proved rain can't slow our efforts to change the world one bike at a time.

Matthew ended his long day at our warehouse after overflowing that Penske and our back up van and trailer dispatched from the Glenwood collection. He and his dad loaded a third van to transport his total 154 bikes to our Arlington VA warehouse. Matt lands a spot in our Eagle Project top five with this impressive turn out.

Phil Ruth
Not to be left out, our long time Cumberland area collection also played a little bike Tetris to fit all their collection bikes into our rented Penske.

For anyone wondering how many bikes fit in a 16 foot Penske we'll go with 121 assuming that last one is a very small bike that will fit in that left corner. For this load, the total bikes is 120 and BfW expert Phil Ruth has quite a few items riding up front with him to make that happen.

The Western Maryland effort is made up of the Rotary Club of Cumberland and the Western Maryland Wheelmen. Led by bike collection veterans Valerie Van Hollen, Larry Brock, Sue Moessinger, and Kate Kidwell this event always exceeds expectations.

This year we had a bit of a scare when Valerie called to say they were calling the ambulance because Phil didn't look so good. Turns out he had a bad reaction to a new medication and was fine, but needed to take a break...before the truck was loaded.

SO...the Cumberland area emergency response team offered to lend a hand in getting that job done. The crew got Phil a chair and he instructed them on how to properly load 120 bikes into a 16 foot Penske. No lie, without his guidance those bikes would have never fit in the truck!

Western MD Wheelmen and Rotarians brave rain
Many thanks to all our managers and volunteers who contributed to this huge success this weekend. Just last week we loaded two containers with corporate group CEB that involved donating 911 bikes. We carved out a hole in our warehouse supply of bikes that lasted all of eight days.

It's great to see those smiles in Cumberland despite the rain, cold, and emergency scare that threatened to damper the collection. This crew came out in force and got the job done.

They also gave Phil a fine send off as he likely packed up his last collection truck of bikes for us. We will sadly say goodbye to Phil at the end of the summer when he migrates west (once again) to be closer to his family.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

From The Peak To The Coast

The Peak bike collection May 2016
While the rain wasn't letting up in the DC area, the skies were shining down on our collection effort in Apex NC. This first time partnership with The Peak United Methodist Church brought in over 100 bikes that were diverted to our Carolinas project based out of Charleston SC.

Combining bikes collected last year at Cape Fear Academy on the coast, this past weekend's collection brings our total in Charleston to over a half a container's worth. Fingers crossed, we will be able to load our first full container of bikes from this warehouse in South Carolina by the end of the year.

Cape Fear Academy 2015 collection
Carolina area coordinator Paul Keefer is driving this effort in Charleston SC (literally). He has been up to visit our warehouse outside DC several times to monitor our operations to ensure a successful 'spoke' site along the coast.

After securing the warehouse location, Paul shifted gears to recruit area managers to host bike collections much like we do in the DC area. He has connected with several Rotary Clubs and faith communities to start the dialogue on the next steps.

Meanwhile, we helped hook him up with long time partner Cape Fear Academy who used to collect bikes and drive them all the way up to us in DC (or Richmond, where we met them to take the truck the rest of the way). Diverting these bikes down the coast generated some excitement over the Carolina effort that would keep donated bikes on the coast so they could load and ship a container from their area. Now all Paul needed was more bikes.

Courtesy The Peak
And when Pastor Kyle Meier contacted us last year from The Peak, we struggled to find the best way for them to get involved with Bikes for the World. Located a good distance from Charleston SC, we didn't immediately make the connection with Paul and our warehouse there. And we just couldn't find a way to support a collection so far from home and at such a busy time to boot.

Meanwhile Pastor Kyle really wanted to mobilize his bike ministry to do even more than they already were. The Peak's bike ministry accepts bike donations throughout the year which they fix up to give back to their community. In total, The Peak refurbishes and redistributes over 100 bikes a year (in addition to all the other great work the congregation does).

Courtesy The Bicycle Man
The Peak joined forces with Fayetteville's The Bicycle Man, a local organization that fixes up bikes and gives them to local families in need. The organization was started by Moses Mathis and after his passing, his widow Ann Mathis wanted to keep his spirit alive through this generous effort. In need of several hundred more bikes before Christmas 2015, Ann put out the plea for bikes and The Peak answered. Last November The Peak's bike ministry collected and donated 157 bikes to The Bicycle Man.

Fast forward to April 2016, when Kyle revisited his dream of collecting bikes to send around the world. He again contacted Bikes for the World and the stars aligned. With a little planning and coordination, BfW Director Keith Oberg worked with Paul Keefer, who was itching to really get this Carolina effort going. He agreed to drive all the way up to Apex NC, collecting bikes along the way to help support Kyle and The Peak.

Paul Keefer, Ann Mathis, Kyle Meier
And The Bicycle Man came back to help too. These two bike groups focused on donating bikes within their own communities saw a bigger cause they could contribute to and wanted to make that global difference.  Back in November during the local donation Kyle said, "This is just one of the ways in which we hope our church can be a blessing to our town and our community." After the outpouring of help, they saw there were more than enough bikes to go around and committed to collecting bikes for Bikes for the World.

The Peak joined some long running BfW partners as well as a few brand new ones from NC to Cumberland MD in what became our biggest collection weekend of the year. Despite the rain in our area, we collected over 700 donated bikes from half a dozen sites in just two days. This past weekend beat our previous biggest weekend, April 30, by over 50 bikes.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Prosper: Pass It On

Prosper Dzandu traded his weaving loom for a truing stand six years ago and he's been riding success ever since.

Originally chosen for a project with the UK bike project Re~Cycle, Prosper retrained as a bike mechanic after years of working as a kente weaver. As he worked his way around a bicycle, Prosper first honed his new skill as a bike mechanic preparing donated bikes for re-use in Ghana.

He eventually joined Village Bicycle Project (VBP) and became a trainer. He would travel along with the VBP team to remote areas in northern Ghana where they would introduce donated bikes into small rural villages. Prosper helped train new bike owners in basic maintenance skills and taught some participants how to ride a bike for the first time.

Prosper eventually started his own  permanent workshop called No Rush In Life. Prosper trains apprentices and shares his love and knowledge of bikes with these employees. His bike business helps provide income to his employees and their families as well as his own wife and their five children.

The shop, seen here, has been upgraded to a more secure metal structure. Previously Prosper had been operating out of a wooden shack that was insecure. To protect his business, Prosper had to sleep at the shop. He can now leave his workshop with peace of mind and return home to his family every night.

 Kente Weaver Courtesy Marie McC
Prosper couldn't have been given a better name. After a few short years he left his weaving position behind and excelled in the bike field. As a trained kente weaver, Prosper was good with his hands and had a meticulous eye for detail. Skills he would bring to his bike stand and eventually his workshop.

Kente cloth is a highly recognizable textile sometimes associated with royalty. The designs are quite intricate and often convey a message. Weavers work long hours sitting at a loom in an uncomfortable position. Weavers move fabric quickly with their fingers and even their toes when completing a kente cloth.

After becoming his own boss, Prosper found his new career as a bike mechanic liberating and rewarding. He is a great communicator and his enthusiasm to share his craft is evident in every workshop he runs with VBP. By training apprentices in his own shop he is helping to boost local economy while freeing himself up to continue working with VBP.

Just last month Prosper received his first ever container of bikes directly from Re~Cycle. He will sort these bikes, and pull out the ones suited for his workshops to help train new riders and mechanics through this work.

Way to go Prosper!