Bikes for the World

Monday, June 29, 2015

Spotlight on Talamanca Costa Rica

This is Talamanca, an Indian reservation located in the South Caribbean of Costa Rica. During the last few years, Bikes for the World and FINCA Costa Rica have sent three containers of bikes to Talamanca.

Some communities in this remote area can only be accessed by the Telire River. Bikes must be offloaded and reloaded onto small 'pangas' to transport the bikes to the communities where they will help transform lives.

Talamanca is one of six cantons, or counties, located in the province of Limón. It is one of the poorest cantons of Costa Rica; the human development index ranks among the lowest in the country.

Talamanca is home to two of the eight indigenous tribes left in Costa Rica. The Bribri and Cabecar speak their own languages and are mostly isolated from the rest of Costa Rica. Because of the language barriers of these indigenous people, they are often less educated and lack proper health care.

Coroma is one of the most remote villages, located in the mountainous area of Talamanca. Coroma is near Puerto Viejo, a popular tourist beach on the east coast of Costa Rica. Unless the Telire River is extremely low, the only way to access Coroma is by boat.

It is in Coroma where you will find the Bribri, living a modest life, many without clean, running water and some without electricity. A missionary group recently built a school in this area, bringing education two hours closer than ever before.

The Bribri are mostly farmers, providing for their families through fruitful banana and plantain crops. Most of what the community needs, food, herbal medicines, and building materials, is grown right in their village. They supplement those supplies with others purchased from the sale of their crops.

Supplies coming in and out of Coroma  must make this trek to and from the Telire River. Our bikes make this journey faster and help farmers transport more bananas and plantains to the boats for sale to larger communities.

Bikes for the World added FINCA Costa Rica as a partner in our first year. This micro-finance project has become known as MiBici and operates much like a monetary loan that is paid back and reinvested in the community.

Bikes that are donated from neighborhoods around the DC area are shipped to coastal communities in Costa Rica where bikes are divvied up among many community groups and then transported all around the country. Our bikes (over 20,000 over the past 10 years) are now spread out around many rural villages along the beaches and mountains of Costa Rica.

 You can read more about the families affected in Coroma in the 2011 article written for the Washington Post.



Saturday, June 6, 2015

Featured Volunteer: Ann Jackson

Ann Jackson has been rallying the troops for Bikes for the World for the past decade in Severna Park. Turning the side parking lot at Pedal Pushers bike shop into a temporary-one-day BfW satellite operation, Ann's crew collects bikes and catches users of the nearby B&A trail to tell them about what we do.

Over the years this collection point has collected about 700 bikes to be recycles and reused to change lives around the globe. "You can really make a difference to someone's life. Not only do you provide bicycles for transportation, you teach people how to fix bicycles. A lot of people (here) have bicycles they don't use and this keeps them out of a landfill. I think it's a good thing to do," Ann Jackson.

The official collection 'sponsor' is Ann Jackson AND Friends. And we really can't recognize Ann without mentioning the 'Friends'. Ann pulls together a collection of relatives to help wrench this event. Sister Ellen Berty runs the outreach table and no one walks by without being asked, "do you have a bicycle to donate?" Her husband Pete and brother Tom not only prep the bikes but they also mentor young volunteers Ann recruits from area schools and clubs. This collection is a popular service project that brings together students, family, friends, and area businesses.

The biggest supporter is the host shop, Pedal Pushers. Owner Rod Reddish has been partnered up with BfW and collects bikes all year, some help jump start Ann's collection. When asked if the collection boosts sales, Reddish replied, "It's not about making money, it's about getting people a ride."

Neighboring coffee shop, The Big Bean, also steps up to help support this effort. "Deb Hoffman is a wonderful supporter by providing free coffee coupons and helping with advertising. Her coffee shop is a real community center," reports Ann Jackson.

Bottom line, we are recognizing Ann for pulling this event together, but it's really the community that makes it roll. From the store fronts promoting the event to the family members mentoring young volunteers this collection defines to a T exactly what BfW sets out to do. In an effort to keep unused bikes out of our waste stream and divert them into hands that can transform them into affordable needed transportation, BfW brings together the community in a single collective effort to affect lives around the world.

And it's managers like Ann that make this a success. "You are all warm and supportive and the whole operation runs very smoothly from start to finish," says Ann. Hosting a bike collection is something YOU can do and BfW can help.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Madagascar: BfW Bikes To Help Health Care Workers

According to the Cabinet Director of the Madagascar Ministry of Health, Family Planning and Social Protection, only 60-70% of the population in Madagascar - those who live closest to roads - have any access to healthcare and many need to walk over ten kilometers to seek health services. The USAID-funded Madagascar Community-Based Integrated Health Project (MAHEFA) is a five-year health program that is working to provide basic, quality health care to isolated populations in Madagascar. One of the project’s key goals is increasing access to such services, which is where Bike’s for the World’s partner Transaid and local implementing organization ONG Lalana come in.

The regions where the MAHEFA program is being implemented are very rural, meaning health workers have limited access to clients and the population has limited access to services. Moreover, all of the community health workers work on a voluntary basis - they receive only a small margin on health commodities that they sell. For this reason, many of them lack motivation. Transaid and ONG Lalana are both working on removing the barrier to access and incentivizing health workers with the help of bikes from Bikes for the World.

The bikes provided will be repaired and sold by cooperatives of community health workers. The health workers themselves will receive bikes for free or at discounts to help them see more clients. The remaining bikes will be sold at affordable prices to individuals in their communities, helping them access affordable transportation and allowing them to more easily seek treatment and other services themselves.

The impact of the bikes, however, does not stop at their distribution. Revenues generated from sales will help incentivize the community health workers in their role by providing a little extra income. A portion of the revenue will also go towards supporting other health initiatives in the community such as maternal health projects. The impact is therefore multiplied. A bike does not just help one person. Each bike can help a health worker, a sick patient, a community member, and even the healthcare system as a whole.

The project will begin under Transaid as part of the MAHEFA program and will over time be transferred to ONG Lalana, their local partner, so that the project may continue for many years to come, long after the end of the MAHEFA mandate.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Guinea-Bissau: BfW Assists Rural Farmers


Seventy-five percent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas as subsistence farmers. This means there can be no release from the cycle of poverty without addressing agriculture. The Global Fairness Initiative (GFI)’s ‘Guinea-Bissau Livelihood Initiative’ is doing just that. They are working to improve agricultural production, market access, and farming regulations in Guinea-Bissau.
 
In the region of Bafatá, GFI partners with a local women’s cooperative called APALCOF (Association of Female Producers and the Self-Promotion for the Fight Against Hunger). The cooperative is comprised of 3,500 female smallholder farmers in 29 communities in the region. They work to improve their members’ livelihood through enhancing nutrition, using technology to reduce required manual labor, promoting access to healthcare, and encouraging literacy.

With the bikes provided from the partnership with Bikes for the World, APALCOF will be able to sell bikes at affordable prices to its women members and their families, most of whom work on rice and onion farms. In West Africa, women are often given last choice of fields after their male relatives, typically meaning the fields furthest from their homes. They travel miles on foot every day, often with a baby on their back.

Women not only work to produce on their farms, but are also generally responsible for nearly all domestic chores. They need to find time in their day to cook, clean, collect water, and care for their children and husband, all while still working long days in their fields to produce food for their families. Moreover, many spend hours every week to carry their goods (often on their heads) to markets to earn a little money for their families.

These are some of the strongest women around, but the enormous amounts of time and physical labor required can reduce their efficiency and make it hard for them to escape poverty. Access to a bike can make a world of difference. A bike can mean less time on chores, more time with family, a smaller toll on the body, and the ability to generate more income.

Not only will this project help women and their families access affordable transportation, but the revenues generated will be reinvested into APALCOF’s micro-finance program and given out as loans to members to establish or strengthen entrepreneurial activities, helping the women improve even further the
well-being of themselves and their families. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Kids These Days

Bikes for the World is a great place to earn student service learning hours. It's fun, protects our environment, makes a huge impact on lives around the world, and for the students involved, it's an incredible learning experience.

At Bikes for the World we think it's important to teach students about the cause; to show them why they are volunteering and how that work affects lives. Every project starts with an introduction to our program with an emphasis on the project(s) that will benefit most from their direct service project or hours - whether that's a collection, loading, or bike prepping session in the warehouse. 

This season we had nine collections organized and managed by students who ranged in age from 17 to 13. Between them they collected 561 bikes that will be sent overseas to help improve people's access to work, school, and health services.

Jack, the youngest, was working on his Eagle project with troop 666. He set a goal of 50 bikes, stating in his Eagle Scout Service Project Handbook, "I will continue to stay at my collection until my goal is met." Ensuring that he didn't keep Keith there until midnight, Jack managed to collect, transport, and store 50 bikes before his collection date. He ended up with 105 bikes total.

Collection Managers are responsible for setting up the location, recruiting volunteers, training them, and promoting the event. For students it means interacting with adults in a way many of them never have.

Some students who approach us to do a service project do not live in our immediate area. This comes with the added challenge of sometimes needing to either organize the delivery of bikes to our Arlington warehouse or in some cases storage of the bikes until we can pick them up. Louis organized and executed his entire collection in Pittsburgh without any hands on mentoring from BfW. We were in constant contact with him via email but all the work was overseen by Louis himself.

For Louis, Jackie, and Josephine, all report the hardest part of the collection process was talking with the Media. But it pays off, these three managers collected half of the total number of bikes our nine young managers collected this past season.

Jackie actually got out of school to do a  LIVE interview on WRIC's noon show to help promote her collection at Maggie Walker Governor's School in Richmond last week.

Josephine, a student at Jefferson High School, in addition to talking with reporters, also had to attend a town council meeting to request permission to reserve a space and talk to police to have the street closed. While BfW offers clear, easy steps to doing a collection event, it often requires students to step out of their comfort zones to really make a huge impact in our program. Josie ended up collecting 105 bikes as well.

Josie visited rural areas of the Philippines last summer and saw first hand how important bikes can be to a poor person's access to work, school and medicine. She wanted to make a difference. Many of the bikes she collected were donated last month to rural communities in Costa Rica and Barbados.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

New BfW Projects in Africa

 Bikes for the World is excited to be adding three new African partners this month. This week we will be loading and shipping two containers from our Arlington VA location. The first will be heading to Guinea-Bissau and the second to Madagascar.

Next week, Bicycles for Humanity- Oregon, WI will be loading and shipping a container of bikes to Cameroon, which Bikes for the World arranged and placed.

Global Fairness Initiative - Guinea-Bissau

In Guinea-Bissau our bikes will be distributed as part of the Guinea-Bissau Livelihood Initiative in Bafatá. This program aims to remove barriers to economic opportunity for small producers in one of the world's poorest and most isolated nations.

Bikes will go to a women's association of smallholder farmers who will sell them at affordable prices to their members to generate revenues for their micro-finance program. The bikes will help female farmers and their families transport good to storage centers, processing facilities, and markets.

Transaid - Madagascar

Transaid works to bring transportation solutions to poor people in developing nations. Transaid operates in several African countries, but our bikes will be used for their healthcare project in Madagascar. The hope is that bikes will help health workers access the villages and help others access needed services.

Transaid will help cooperatives of health workers to set up bikes shops. The members will receive training in bike mechanics and the revenues will provide them with an added incentive for their work and additional funding for health-related projects.

NAVTI Foundation - Cameroon

In Cameroon, our bikes will be sent to Ndop in the region of Kumbo, where the first of three bikes shops will be established. A bike mechanics program will train youth in the skills needed to repair and maintain bicycles.

Bikes will go primarily to students and small-scale entrepreneurs, particularly females, to promote economic development in the region.



Friday, May 8, 2015

One Weekend, Two Containers

On April 25, 2015 Bikes for the World hosted what we dubbed The Battle Beyond the Bridge, a friendly competition between East Side and West Side Maryland. Representing the East was a collection site hosted by George and Mary Medicus in Kent Island. In the West corner, Otterbein United Methodist Church, a strong contender, and crowd favorite.

Kent Island represented the Underdog backed by a powerful team of scouts from troop 495. The Battle was a squeaker with no losers. In fact the winners will be MiBici in Costa Rica and Pinelands Creative Workshop in Barbados, our next two container shipments slated to be loaded during Bike Week, next week, by corporate group CEB.

In the betting world what we ended up with was likely a Push. Basically, no one 'lost' the contest. Kent Island turned in a most impressive collection at 266 bikes. Otterbein United Methodist topped their total last year collecting 232 bikes and 13 sewing machines.

Both collection managers, George and Mary and Cindy Brown and Mike Johnston (of Otterbein UM) have been recognized by BfW as Featured Volunteers.

Both sites, additionally collected mobility aids such as crutches, canes and walkers. This was in response to a request from BfW recipient partner Ability Bikes in Ghana. Ability Bikes is a co-op bike shop owned and operated by individuals with disabilities.

We had such an incredible turn out for these specialty requested items we will likely also be sending many to our partner Goodwill Panama.

Sewing machines will be in the container next week for Costa Rica.

Total bikes collected the weekend of April 25-26? 717 BIKES! But we really do need to acknowledge the effort turned in by Otterbein United Methodist.  They have been with us from the start and since their first annual collection they have now collected 2,607 bicycles and 94 portable sewing machines. 

Otterbein UM continues to hold the BfW record for a one-day, single-site turn out at 402 bikes in 2009. Since then they regularly collect over 200 bikes every last Saturday in April.