Bikes for the World

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Shipping Bikes and Building Islands

When Bikes for the World partners up with a school or organization we do more than collect bikes together. Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess will routinely come into a classroom or club meeting to introduce some of our overseas partners and beneficiaries to help put a face to our mission.

One question the kids always ask is how do the bikes get from point A to point B. When they find out they go by ship, they want to know how they get there from their school and we love to tell them.

Earth Day 2017 loading in Frederick MD for CESTA El Salvador
Almost all of our bikes are loaded in our local warehouse now located in Rockville Maryland. There are a few cases when we will assist or advise on other loadings like the one we worked on today in Frederick Maryland.

We typically load forty foot shipping containers that arrive to our warehouse pulled by a tractor trailer. Most often our loadings are done over two days to allow time to sort bikes properly and include other items such as spare parts and tubes and tires that are invaluable to the mechanics rebuilding our donated bikes overseas.

Actual bike container in port in Ghana, Africa
After they leave our warehouse, the trucks deliver the containers to the port of Baltimore where they wait until a ship is leaving for the destined country. This could be two days or two weeks.

Then, they float across the ocean to their new homes in Central America or Africa or even the Philippines. This could take two weeks or as long as two months!

When the bikes arrive overseas our partners have to meet the containers at port to have them cleared and transported back to their warehouses and/or final destinations. This can also be a quick trip, like in Barbados which is a smaller island. Or it can take months, like in the Philippines where bikes are distributed among many, many islands and need to be transported several times.

Since today is Earth Day, we decided to give you an even different view our bikes' journey, the impact it has on our environment, and how Maryland is taking an obstacle and creating something amazing right here in the Chesapeake Bay.

Has anyone ever heard of Poplar Island?  This small island is located in Talbot County within the Chesapeake Bay and was on the edge of 'extinction' in the 90s. In fact, this once Presidential retreat island, was about 1100 acres and in less than 200 years it was reduced in size to 5 acres.

What does that have to do with shipping bikes around the world? Dredging. Dredging makes navigating cargo ships through these channels possible. Excavating sediment from those vital waterways keeps those channels open to ships needing a deep channel to pass.

But what do they do with the dredged material once it's removed from the bay floor? Good question, and here's the awesome answer...Maryland and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now 'rebuilding' the lost footprint of Poplar Island with dredged material from the shipping channel. When the project is completed in 2029 Poplar Island will be even bigger than it was when it was discovered in 1573.

Restoring these islands is important for several reasons. The small islands dotted along the edge of Maryland are important in protecting our coasts from erosion and storm surge. Islands such as Poplar have also been critical in protecting wildlife habitat such as our bird species, fish and shellfish.

The Maryland Environmental Service also works with local schools to raise and place vulnerable terrapin populations on the island.

From the Maryland Environmental Service website:

"The restoration of Poplar Island includes the creation of uplands and intertidal wetlands offering a diversity of habitats for a variety of Chesapeake Bay wildlife. With less than 20% of the habitat creation completed, Poplar Island wildlife goals are already being realized.

A number of the region’s most sensitive bird species including common and least terns, cattle and snowy egrets, osprey, and the American black duck, are found nesting onsite annually and diamondback terrapins continue to return to the site to nest as well."

Don't take our word for it, you can schedule your own tour of Poplar Island. And this is an island you'll want to go back to year after year to see how much it changes over time.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

We've MOVED!

Bikes for the World has a new home! After years of jumping from place to place just barely escaping the wrecking ball that seemed to haunt our every move...BfW now has a semi-permanent address to call our own.

It's been a somewhat 'gypsy' existence taking advantage of donated or concessional space over the past decade or more, but the time has come to set down a few roots. Either that or there were no more abandoned buildings (or prisons) to take over.

Now, we are back in Montgomery County after a few years hiatus, this time with a five year paid lease. Read: We're sticking around for a while!

This new space is more centrally located to all the collection points we host throughout the year whether it's our seasonal community led events or our year long partnerships with bike shops in MD, VA, and DC. We've also, for the first time, combined our warehouse and office giving us the flexibility to open the warehouse up to volunteers on a more regular basis...while we are hard at work at our computers.

It's also afforded us the comfort to feel secure enough to put up sturdy permanent shelving and introduce a concept many volunteers have asked for over the years, organization for all levels. In fact, organizing the warehouse was the talk of the Warehouse Warming Party on April 8 when we opened our doors to you, our supporters, volunteers, and donors.

"Wow! Who came up with that wall (with the parts bins)? That's amazing!" Who's idea was it to use those old bike frames to organize the tires and get them off the floor?" Meet Bob Leftwich, our Operations Manager if you haven't already. Bob knows his way around a bike shop, having owned and managed one for over 35 years. And he likes his space organized. And you love him for it.

It's been a dream of BfW to have this type of organization in our parts room. Now with clearly marked bins volunteers of any level can sort or pack spare parts for shipments or storage. Our mechanic volunteers can now build up frames missing parts so that we send full bikes to our partners- giving those mechanics overseas a leg up when our donated bikes arrive en masse.

Volunteers can also interact with staff more frequently and ask all kinds of questions about the program or partners with our office right there in the warehouse. When Yvette Hess, Outreach Coordinator, is plugging away at her desk you can drop in and ask about the latest shipment or newest partner. "I just got back from Barbados and it was truly a delight to see how our partner there is using your old bikes to build a better, stronger neighborhood in their community," said Yvette during the party. "It's quite different from the other partners I've visited, but no less important."

BfW board member John Burg loads a bike for Madagascar
During the celebration this month, visitors also got to see and take part in loading a container destined for our health care partner in Madagascar.

It was the first time some of our collection volunteers ever got to see what happens to the bikes they collect at their schools or churches. "That's just incredible. I'd love to see them unload those bikes on the other end," said one volunteer.

Mike Johnston and Bob closing the container
And we recognized a few of our stand out collection partners too- those who have reached our 1k Club designation by collecting 1,000 or more bikes over the years. On hand accepting that award for Otterbein United Methodist Church was Michael Johnston who has worked alongside Cindy Brown for years to manage and organize this incredible effort. We also let Mike put the seal on the container.

Otterbein United Methodist Church was our first collection partner to achieve this mark way back in 2009. At their collection this year on April 29th we fully expect them to surpass 3,000 bikes donated! Otterbein also holds the record for the number of sewing machines donated to BfW.

Keith Oberg, Sam, and Tom Clingman
We also recognized the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek who stands at 2,100 bike donated since 2005. And FYI, that number does NOT include the bikes donated as part of the 2017 collection effort taking place April 22.

We'll have much more on that effort later this month. (Don't be surprised if they also break the 3,000 mark- and yes we know that means they will need to collect 900 bikes this year).

Perhaps a little early, perhaps not, BfW awarded a 1k Club plaque to the Glenwood Lions Club too. This group, working alongside the Glenwood Middle School LEOs, is poised to break 1,000 during their May 6th collection. We actually know they've already got #1,000 in storage so we went ahead and recognized them during our party. Stay tuned next month for an update on them.

The address, in case you missed our warehouse warming party, is 11720 Parklawn Dr, Rockville MD 20852, or North Bethesda if you prefer. We hope you'll stop in and see us sometime. You can drop a bottom bracket in a bin, roll a bike on a container, or ask a question of the staff...or just chill on the couch. Yeah, we got that too!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Featured Volunteer: Tom and Roger Rinker of The Bicycle Escape

This month we have a pretty exciting event happening at Bikes for the World. And we aren't talking about our recent move to Rockville. Okay, so this April in general is a very exciting month for BfW! But the big news we are talking about here, is a first-time-ever loading happening in Frederick Maryland.

It's no secret that the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek has been absolutely KILLING IT collecting bikes over the last few years. Truth is, they've always been one of our biggest partners since we became BfW in 2005. Since then, the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek has collected and donated well over 2,000 bicycles to our program and there's no sign of that slowing down any time soon.

To give you an idea of what they are doing up there in 2014 they collected 149 bicycles. In 2015, they turned up the heat and collected 305. In 2016, under the leadership of Richard Foot, the Rotarians set a goal of collecting one bike for every day in the year. Last time I checked that was 365 days. But the Club looked past their goal and turned in an impressive 539 bikes that year. In 2017, the reins were handed over to Norm Birzer and let's just say they've already surpassed last year's collection and their collection is scheduled for April 22!

So back at BfW headquarters we had a staff meeting and said, this is crazy! Why don't we just bring in a container to Frederick and do the loading there instead of bringing all those bikes back to DC. See, not only is the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek collecting bikes, but they have secured year long storage, have a cache of volunteers on hand, do regular pick ups at police departments, recycling centers, and bikes shops. Then they also coordinate community cooperation to pull all this off. They ARE a small BfW splinter operating just outside our normal radius of operation.

So this year on Earth Day, April 22 the Rotary Club of Carroll Creek will host their annual bike collection at Triangle Motors on North Market Street. And right there alongside the collection we'll have our container being loaded at the same time by the same volunteers who helped collect all those bikes. And if you drop your bike off that day, you can stay and watch it go into the container and you'll know exactly where it's heading. The project we support in El Salvador CESTA.

But as we pointed out, this kind of success takes a village. Quite a few people came together over the last couple years to make this happen. Two of those people are being honored this month at BfW, Tom and Roger Rinker.

Tom owns The Bicycle Escape in Frederick and has been a huge Bikes for the World supporter over the years. The Bicycle Escape feeds the Rotary club hundreds of bicycles over the year, but more importantly the shop also donates tons of tubes, tires, parts, and accessories. All of these 'extra' items are especially important to our partner mechanics overseas who have to get all these bikes back on the road once they arrive...AND keep them rolling.

"Roger (Tom's dad) has been the driving force in these recycling activities and helping with our annual collection," said Norm Birzer, Bicycle Committee Chair.

Tom and Roger were also behind the connection made with the Frederick Police Department to facilitate the release of a fleet of police bikes for the 2015 bike collection.

"Tom Rinker is Chairman of the Frederick Bicycle Coalition, organized to foster bicycling in the Frederick community.  The Bicycle Escape sponsors several charitable/bicycle-related events every year, as well as other events to promote cycling in the community.  They are also very active in sponsoring and promoting the annual Tour de Frederick," Richard Foot.

Bikes for the World is honored to be associated with the Rinkers. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Fabric of a Community

Dona Adela Bastos (seen right) lives in Upala Costa Rica. She owns her own business making and selling items she creates with her sewing machine. She is able to support her family through the sale of pillows, curtains, and intimate apparel.

Life in rural Costa Rica is idyllic. Towns are located off the main routes often accessed by small gravel paths. They are nestled beyond the pineapple fields and at the foot of coffee crops that loom on steep hills overhead. This peaceful seclusion, however, often cuts families off from the main artery of the country. This affects their access to jobs and income. It also impacts their ability to run basic errands for their families which become costly and time consuming.

While families have spectacular views of mountains and impressive volcanoes that make up much of inland Costa Rica, they are far away from the beautiful beaches that tourists come to see and where many of the tourism dollars land. Community members have serene lives but they are sometimes a mile or more away from the small businesses that even serve their communities.

Financially, these families struggle. Employment opportunities are sparse. Construction is a lucrative career, but traveling to distant job sites becomes a hardship for laborers. Likewise, many business opportunities lie on the outskirts of their communities or even further away. Without reliable personal transportation, some opportunities lie just out of reach for many people. Others spend a big percentage of their salaries on bus fare for lengthy commutes that often don't stick to published schedules.

FINCA Costa Rica, BfW's longest international partner,  works to improve the 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- Community Credit Associations (Empresas de Credito Comunal, or ECCs). The ECCs are owned by local residents and provide financial services to their members that help them develop productive home-based businesses, such as carpentry, sewing, baking, petty commerce, and reinvest in their communities.

In this way ECCs are able to create their own small businesses in their own communities, many of them working right out of their own homes. Dona Adela, above, is a member of the ECC known as Canalete. This is the same community Bikes for the World visited in 2014. It is also the same area that was severely affected by Hurricane Otto last fall.

Bikes for the World donates containers of bikes to FINCA Costa Rica who helps distribute them among these ECCs scattered all over Costa Rica. The bike project, known as MiBici, helps create capital to support this micro-credit project and ultimately to help establish these small businesses that are the fabric of the community.

Additionally, BfW has donated over 300 sewing machines to this project since 2005. Some ECCs offer sewing workshops like this one in Pital El Encanto in San Carlos. A teacher is hired in the community to run the workshop and participants pay a fee to attend. Part of this entrance fee is reinvested in the ECC which helps provide those micro-loans to community entrepreneurs.

In this particular class there are 13 students, ten of them have little to no previous experience as seamstresses. The three who currently work as seamstresses will improve their skills to produce more intricate stitches and complex creations. The other ten are considering adopting this as a career to help support their families.

Luz Marina Morales Mora lives in San Francisco de La Palmera, also in San Carlos. We met Luz Marina during our visit in 2014. She sews for her family and neighbors, creating pillows, dresses, and other various linen items for personal wear and household use. She also makes and sells toy stick horses for children.

Our container that arrived last fall in the middle of the hurricane was redirected when its destined community of Upala was damaged by floods and mud from the storm. While the community no longer had the warehouse available to accept the 500 bikes in the container, they were able to receive the 26 sewing machines included in that container.

Mrs. Mirna Ordonez received one of those sewing machines to improve her business that was set up through her ECCs micro-credit program. Dona Mirna makes tents and mosquito nets and sells them to neighbors.

A replacement container of bikes was shipped from our South Carolina location earlier this month and is scheduled to arrive any day. These bikes will be distributed in communities within Upala.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Stitch In Time

Nalongo Nagobi Joweliya was a single mother of three who had just turned 40 when she was imprisoned for aggravated assault. She served two years before being released.

In Uganda, prison sentences are particularly hard on women, many of them wrongly accused. Prisons are overcrowded and inmates are routinely cut off from family visits due to travel complications.

Many are single mothers like Joweliya. They need to rely on the generosity of family or friends who look after their children while they are incarcerated. Visits become a burden many of these 'foster' moms cannot bear.

When women are released from prison it's like starting over. They may not have a home to go home to. The world has moved on without them. Their kids are scattered and resettled in other families, most are struggling to get by.

Training programs, like the sewing project sponsored by the Prisoners Support Organization in Uganda, are vital to helping ex-offenders get a leg up once they are released.

Kevin Okoth, seen here, participated in a life skills program while incarcerated at Jinja prison.  In the program she learned about business and computers. She also honed her tailoring and knitting skills.

Okoth was sent to prison after a neighbor accused her of robbing him at gun point. Without the funds to pay for lawyer Okoth was sent to the women's prison after being held for a week in a local holding cell. Finally, after three years in prison, the case was dismissed and Okoth was released.

During her sentence her children were cared for by family members. During that period none of the children were enrolled in school, unable to pay for books and school fees. They also had to pick up odd jobs to help financially in their temporary home.

Okoth was definitely one of the lucky ones. Upon her release, the program offered her a sewing machine which she put to immediate use. Okoth began her own tailoring business making clothes for women and uniforms for students. She had money coming in, got her kids back in school, and her spirits rose exponentially.

For nearly a decade, Bikes for the World supported this project with bikes and sewing machines which helped create new lives for ex-offenders eager to start over. We contributed over 60 sewing machines to the Women's Prison Support Organization since 2007. Each donated machine helped provide valuable training classes, equipping young women with life skills to mend their lives.  They also provided the means to start new small businesses to help these struggling mothers rebuild their families after years apart.

Friday, February 10, 2017

From Carolina to Costa Rica, With Love

Ralph and Kitty Echenique
While Bikes for the World folks up north trained an eye on a groundhog hole waiting to hear if spring was near or far, our South Carolina crew was busy as a beaver preparing for their first ever container loading.

February 3 & 4 our newest BfW chapter saw their hard work pay off. After more than a year of collecting bikes, this motley crew set out to move 500 or so bikes from a roomy warehouse to a cramped shipping container. And just in time, as they were asked to vacate that warehouse this month.

Cape Fear Academy crew led by Becky Copenhaver
This effort really started back in the fall of 2015 with BfW partner Cape Fear Academy. This school effort brought 133 bikes from North Carolina to South Carolina to jump start the Carolina chapter of BfW.

To be honest, the 'effort' really started with Navy retiree Paul Keefer, who we honored last month. Paul is the area coordinator who secured free warehouse space and coordinated pick ups of loads of bikes from two to two hundred. He has also worked tirelessly to bring the BfW name and mission to hundreds of Carolinians who had only wondered before, "what can I do with this old bike?"

Paige and Jaime Stacy
With the help of Bikes for the World, the answer became simple...DONATE IT! But Paul quickly found getting the word out is practically a full time job. Thankfully he found Jaime Stacy who has been leading much of the communication outreach effort down there (not to mention providing some of the muscle too).

Paul also spent most of last year reaching out to clubs and groups introducing our idea of collecting bikes as a rewarding service project. "What I love most about Bikes for the World is the simplicity and power of the concept. Collections are an exciting, uplifting event for all," said Paul in a recent newspaper article. And in waves, the bikes started pouring in.

Paul with Tom Lawrence
There was the collection we connected him on at The Peak Church in Apex, North Carolina. Another 100 bikes. Collections at Coastal Carolina University, Carolina Youth Development Center and Sow Seasonal Urban Farm in South Carolina- 25 more...

A truckload of bikes came in late last year from Tom Lawrence of Sumter. Another big donation from Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Brand new bikes from Union United Methodist...

Those of you who are familiar with our operation in DC know it's much more than just finding bikes, storing them, and then throwing them on a container. In order to fit the maximum number of bikes in a shipment there is a lot of hands on prep work required.

Navy crew regular volunteers
And Paul turned to the hardest working crew he knew...the Navy. Borrowing muscle from the Nuclear Power School not far away, Paul had much of the work done prior to this weekend.

But there were still parts to be stripped off bikes, boxes of parts to pack, and OSB to cut (to stack the bikes in the trailer). And with the Navy crew unavailable this weekend Paul found himself short on help.

Or so he thought. Sow Seasonal Farm had a few volunteers on hand for the event and so did Premier Logistics. Premier Logistics is the company who loaned Paul the use of the warehouse. And as it turns out loaned us much of the muscle for the load!

Bob Leftwich sharing loading tips with new crew
So with the guidance of Operations Manager Bob Leftwich, who we sent down there to assist, this inexperienced crew knocked out this task effortlessly. And they even maximized the load by surpassing the average 500 bikes mark!

This container will set sail this week heading to Costa Rica. The donated bikes are expected to arrive in Upala at the end of the month. You'll remember we told you about Upala last November when we had a container sitting in port waiting to be delivered to this same community. And then Hurricane Otto hit and efforts to clean and rebuild the town redirected focus. You can read more about that on the blog.

Ron Watts and Christina Russell
But now Upala is back and in need of that transportation our bikes deliver. We were thrilled to have this container ready to go out of South Carolina just as Upala was ready to resume the bike program.

We are even more thrilled to hear a report back from Paul that Carolina is cruising ahead to collect even more bikes. Not needing a groundhog to confirm warmer weather down south, this SC chapter already has its first collection of the year on the calendar for March. We expect another 1,000 bikes before summer from a commitment through the SC United Methodist Annual Conference. We are actively adding new locations to our calendar in keep your eye on our schedule for something near you!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Featured Volunteer: Zak Elmanakhly

So this face might be unfamiliar to many of our regulars around the warehouse, but his impact to our program should not go unnoticed.

Zak Elmanakhly has gone the distance for Bikes for the World, quite literally. Miles and miles and miles. Zak has been helping us centralize and condense our stock pile of bikes that stretches along the east coast.

Zak came to us in November of last year after talking with Andy Williamson who works with us on collections and also on local donations to kids in Kentucky. Andy has quite a bit of experience hauling large number of bikes and pulled Zak into the conversation.

Andy Williamson
Not to get too much off topic, but Andy also has quite a bit of miles in for Bikes for the World. We honored him a few years ago for his work with that bike donation in Kentucky. He's now moved, repaired, and delivered nearly 900 bikes to kids in this program!

But back to Zak... so he started last fall by collecting some of our New York bikes and bringing them down to our main warehouse in Virginia. We needed these bikes to help round out our final containers shipping from our Pentagon City warehouse. Those bikes helped complete the container we were shipping to Village Bicycle Project in Ghana last December.

Then came the bigger task. Pittsburgh. We've known for a while now we needed a plan to close down our Pittsburgh warehouse. But we also knew there were close to 200 bikes there thanks to a very successful Eagle Project back in 2015. Moving them would be no easy task.

To say Zak jumped at the idea might sound exaggerated, but none the less, true. After spending some time in Bali and Egypt, Zak arrived home to Connecticut only to leave two days later en-route to our warehouse in Pennsylvania. Once there, this is what he found, a basement full of bikes.

So after a six hour drive to Pittsburgh, Zak immediately got to work loading the rented U-Haul that awaited him. Ahh, but if only it were that easy. The bikes were in the basement and Zak was by himself. With the help of a very well used elevator, Zak brought all those bikes to the surface a handful at a time.

He then had to put some final prep work into some of the bikes so that all 142 would fit on the truck. Finally, he loaded the truck and drove to DC. Again to recap, jetlagged and tired, Zak drove six hours to Pittsburgh. Once there he spent the next five hours moving and prepping bikes by himself. Then hemade an overnight trip driving the final leg to Virginia to deliver this load to our storage area at Bonzai Sports.

These bikes will make our next shipment possible at the beginning of March. We hope at that time to be settled into our new permanent home...details coming soon!....

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Heart of Rebuilding a Hub

Last summer we watched helplessly as our neighbors to the north in Ellicott City Maryland suffered a devastating blow when a surprise storm overtook the town. This wasn't a hurricane or tornado we were bracing for, it was a severe rain storm that wasn't expected to bring the damage it did.

Water swelled from below and ran from above and collected at the bottom of the hill taking with it everything in its path. It tore away streets and sidewalks, carried away cars like small boats, destroyed homes and businesses, leaving behind mud and devastation. Out of this razed town rose a stronger community.

Family and friends took in displaced residents. The Governor came and promised to fix the streets, loans were issued. Strangers came together to help clean and rebuild buildings and bring back to life the heart of this historical town that relies on small business to thrive. It is still a work in progress, but if you visit Ellicott City that is exactly what you will find, progress, and a heart of platinum.

Imagine losing your home, your business, everything you own. Imagine no one coming to your aid. Imagine relocating to an unknown place, where you don't speak the language, have no family or friends- just you, your family and a few possessions you grabbed that now fit in the trunk of a car.

This isn't a life most people would hope for or dream about, but it has become a reality for millions of Syrians forced to leave the rubble of what was once their home. On a TV screen we've seen their towns reduced to a pile of rocks. We've seen the shock and disbelief on their troubled faces. We argue about how to help, IF we should help, whether we should open our doors or close our borders. What many of us in America fail to see is a human in crisis.

Adham, Maher, and Munir with Harvey and Keith
Maryland has taken in about 400 Syrian refugees in 2016. Virginia, less. They come with a suitcase full of clothes, a family to care for, and no job, no house, no idea what to do next.

American host families stepped up and opened their homes, welcoming the displaced families into their own. One host family was shocked to find how much luggage came with the Syrian family they were taking in. "We expected them to arrive with nothing, but there were so many suitcases in the trunk." When they opened their luggage they not only found clothes but also food. The realization hit of what it must be like to relocate to a foreign country not knowing how you were going to feed your family.

Thanks to the generosity and support of these American families, the newly arriving Syrians had a safe place to call home, if only temporary. Enter in Langley Hill Friends Meeting who collectively decided they also needed to help. The Friends community helped them find jobs, get their kids enrolled in school, apply for a drivers license. Eventually they would find homes of their own.

But for many refugees settled all over the US transportation remains a problem. Buying a car is often out of reach for many Syrians for months after arriving in the States. This limits the type of jobs they can apply for depending on where they live and the means they have to commute. Many refugees often wind up walking to work and to run family errands.

Najla Drooby, of Langley Hill, recognized this early and approached Bikes for the World. She also identified a young man named Munir who had some bike mechanic skills and asked if he could join us in the warehouse. After just one week in the warehouse, Munir earned a couple bikes and spare parts for fellow refugees to use for work. He returned the following week, with friends.

Nathan, one of our veteran volunteer mechanics worked with Munir and Maher showing them some of the tricks of the trade. They were unfamiliar with some of the specialized bike tools unavailable to them back home. Nathan reported that communication proved to be no barrier when dealing with tools and's a universal, understood language. Adham spent most of his time assisting Keith loading the containers helping other people around the world.

This Syrian crew joined us in our last days at Pentagon City helping us load containers, prepare bikes and parts to ship overseas and also earned bikes to take home, something we don't normally allow at Bikes for the World. But this was a unique situation. This cause aligned with our mission. We identified some road bikes that are harder to place in our rural projects around the world and put them to good use here in our backyard. It was a small resource we could spare that had a huge impact in our community.

Our bikes were helping these new Maryland families go to work, the library, and run errands. The goal was to help them succeed and to do that be independent again. We hoped to help these families return to the self-sufficient life many of them left behind.