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

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