Bikes for the World

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Central America Trip: Costa Rica

Fundacion Integral Campesina de Costa Rica (FINCA Costa Rica) is a long-standing Bikes for the World partner. We shipped our first container to FINCA Costa Rica in our start up year, the summer of 2005. Since then we have donated over 20,000 bikes to the program, 20% of our overall donations.

FINCA Costa Rica works to improve socioeconomic conditions and quality of life for the poorest families in Costa Rica, especially those living in rural areas. Their primary model to achieve this goal is through the establishment of community-run micro-credit groups known as ECCs (Empresas de Credito Comunal). The ECCs are owned by local residents and work to provide financial services to their members that help them develop productive activities and reinvest in their communities.

EMPRESAS de CREDITO COMUNAL

Many of the ECCs participate in the bike project supported by BfW donations. If an ECC chooses to participate in the bike project, FINCA Costa Rica sells them a diverse allotment of bikes and spare parts wholesale. This shipment is donated by Bikes for the World. A container of 500 bikes may be split into 5 equal parts and shared among 5 different communities.

The unloading and distributions of the allotments determined by FINCA Costa Rica usually takes place in a central town within a rural region where the participating ECCs meet to collect their portions. Once the container is split among the ECCs, they then arrange for the delivery and reassembly of the bikes donated by BfW.

Once the ECC assembles and repairs the bikes, they are sold at modest prices within the community and the revenue is funneled back into the ECC to support members' micro-businesses or other activities. Those businesses may be a small market, clothing shop, or repair business for example. Each ECC model differs and is tailored to best support the community it serves. Bikes for the World visited two Empresas during the trip to Costa Rica.

EC CANALETE

Antonio and Eduviges
Our first visit was with EC Canalete in the Upala region of Northern Costa Rica. The town is situated near the border of Nicaragua in a rural community without many businesses nearby. Many residents walk or take the bus for work or errands.

We spoke with several bike beneficiaries during our visit to this community. Eduviges works on a farm harvesting mamón chino or rambutan, a grape-like fruit.  She used to leave at 5am to complete her two hour commute on foot. It now takes less than an hour, leaving her more time to tend to household chores.

Antonio is a young boy who comes from a very poor family. He became involved with the ECC and started helping with their activities, including unloading the container of bikes from Bikes for the World. In exchange for his hard work the ECC gifted him a bicycle that he now uses for everything.

EC SAN FRANCISCO

Next we visited the EC San Francisco which is also located in Northern Costa Rica in Platanar. This remote area was surrounded by pineapple and yucca farms. Many residents walk or take the bus to get to work or school. Most students live about 1-2 miles from their schools. Workers, on average, spend $12 a week on bus fares. Owning a bike is saving them money and time.

Danny
Some kids who don't have money to buy a bike can earn one by helping out with the ECC. They may help in the office or unload bikes when they arrive. Some of the older kids even help reassemble and repair some of the bikes. Members of the community who have bike mechanic experience help repair the bikes and are paid in shares, an investment in the ECC.

Danny uses his bike for school and recreation. Biking is a growing form of recreation in the area where young people don't have many extra-curricular activities. Danny also uses his bike to help his mom with errands at her small shop in the town center about a mile away from their home. Danny often lets some of the younger boys who don't have bikes ride his bike to practice their riding skills.


MORE PHOTOS FROM OUR VISIT TO CANALETE

MORE PHOTOS FROM OUR VISIT TO SAN FRANCISCO

Read about our first stop on the Central America Trip: Visit To Panama


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