Bikes for the World

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Johan: Costa Rican Farmer

Continuing our series, One Bike, Two Wheels, Four Revolutions we take a look at how one bicycle often affects up to four lives (or more!). Here we introduce a new bike owner who received a bike from our last container shipped from our Charleston location. 

But we also bring you the story of one beneficiary who benefited from the bike project, without even receiving a bicycle. Through our local partner FINCA Costa Rica we are improving the lives of small business owners and in turn entire communities. This micro-finance project works with communities to establish Community Credit Enterprises (ECC) that offer small business loans to its members. Those loans help develop local business such as cattle farming, agriculture, commerce, or services.
Jakob and Johan

Johan Leandro has spent most of his life farming the lands in his hometown of San Cristobal Norte Desamparados, San Jose Costa Rica. He provides for his family by harvesting vegetables and selling them to local vendors in the town market.

Johan asked for a $1,800 loan to increase his crop production. He will use the money to buy more seeds focusing on a better quality seed. He hopes to double or triple his yield of tomatoes, green beans, and sweet peppers.

This increase in his crops will allow him to sell more produce to vendors, bring home more money for his family, and improve their quality of life.

The loans through the ECC are made possible because of bike sales by the co-op. The bikes are received through shipments from Bikes for the World and placed by FINCA Costa Rica based on need and type of bike. The members of the receiving co-op prepare the bikes for sale and the proceeds fund the community business loans.

Jakob picked out his bike from our container donated this summer through Bikes for the World Charleston. Bikes were collected through a statewide effort among United Methodist churches in South Carolina.

In our One Bike, Two Wheels series we look at how Celia benefited from our bike donations by expanding her motorcycle repair shop. Read more here...




Monday, August 7, 2017

Celia: Motorcycle Repair Shop

Continuing our series, One Bike, Two Wheels, Four Revolutions we take a look at how one bicycle often affects up to four lives (or more!). Here we introduce a new bike owner who received a bike from our last container shipped from our Charleston location.

But we also bring you the story of one beneficiary who benefited from the bike project, without even receiving a bicycle. Through our local partner FINCA Costa Rica we are improving the lives of small business owners and in turn entire communities. This micro-finance project works with communities to establish Community Credit Enterprises (ECC) that offer small business loans to its members. Those loans help develop local business such as cattle farming, agriculture, commerce, or services.

Diana and Celia

Celia Reyes is a single mother of two. The family lives in Upala where Celia has owned and operated a motorcycle repair shop for the last four years. Celia turned to her local ECC recently for a loan to grow her repair business.

Her loan of $1,800 will help her offer a wider range of services within the shop. She can now buy more spare parts for repairs as well as to sell to customers doing their own repairs. The increase in business could lead to hiring more mechanics improving their lives as well as her own.


Little Diana is very excited about her new baby blue Schwinn her family purchased from our last container that arrived this summer via Bikes for the World Charleston. She likes all the pink accents, especially the basket and streamers. She will now be able to ride with some of the other kids in her community who also just received or already had bikes.


Through our donated bikes, rural ECCs are able to raise funds for a general pot of money that can be used by members to augment or improve their businesses that serve the communities where they live. Members who purchase the refurbish bikes are also able to improve their own lives with more affordable, reliable transportation for school, work, or errands.

Find out how Maria used her loan to improve the lives of her sheep in our One Bike, Two Wheels series...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Maria: Costa Rican Sheep Breeder

Continuing our series, One Bike, Two Wheels, Four Revolutions we take a look at how one bicycle often affects up to four lives (or more!). Here we introduce a new bike owner who received a bike from our last container shipped from our Charleston location.
But we also bring you the story of one beneficiary who benefited from the bike project, without even receiving a bicycle. Through our local partner FINCA Costa Rica we are improving the lives of small business owners and in turn entire communities. This micro-finance project works with communities to establish Community Credit Enterprises (ECC) that offer small business loans to its members. Those loans help develop local business such as cattle farming, agriculture, commerce, or services.

Maria and Yalitza


Maria Auxiliadora and her husband rely on their sheep breeding business for income. The young couple started breeding sheep over four years ago and the money they earn helps pay for their continuing education. Maria received a loan from her local ECC to help build new pens for their sheep.

Maria, seen above with one of her less-than-camera-shy sheep, lives in Grifo Alto de Puriscal in San Jose Costa Rica. This is a very beautiful region known for their coffee and tobacco farms. It is, however, also plagued by deforestation which affects production, habitat, and the climate. Over 80% of the population lives in a rural area.

Yalitza lives in a small town known as Bijagua just south of Upala. Her family purchased this pink bicycle from our shipment donated to her community this summer. The proceeds from the sale will augment the pool of money available to the community for small business loans, like the one that helped Maria's family.

Learn about Plutarco, and his pulperia and how our donated bikes helped him gear up his stock to better serve his community...



Saturday, August 5, 2017

Plutarco: Costa Rican Pulperia

Continuing our series, One Bike, Two Wheels, Four Revolutions we take a look at how one bicycle often affects up to four lives (or more!). Here we introduce a new bike owner who received a bike from our last container shipped from our Charleston location.

But we also bring you the story of one beneficiary who benefited from the bike project, without even receiving a bicycle. Through our local partner FINCA Costa Rica we are improving the lives of small business owners and in turn entire communities. This micro-finance project works with communities to establish Community Credit Enterprises (ECC) that offer small business loans to its members. Those loans help develop local business such as cattle farming, agriculture, commerce, or services.
Emmanuel and Plutarco


Plutarco Sequeira
is also from Canalete, where Maria, Tonito, and Eduviges live. Plutarco and his wife own a small convenience store known as a pulperia. For four years they have been supplying the community with items such as food and cleaning supplies. Given the remoteness of Canalete, Plutarco's store is quite popular among his neighbors. They are able to dash in and pick up items without spending a lot of time walking all the way into town.

Plutarco asked his local ECC for a $1,000 loan so that he could increase his stock with a wider variety of items. The loan allowed Plutarco to purchase more merchandise for his customers. They can now buy most of their needs right there in Canalete rather than spending time and energy walking to the next bigger town where more goods and services are sold.

Plutarco and his wife now bring in more income to support their family's needs. They also provide a valuable service to the community which helps improve their lives as well.

It's through our bike donations that these ECCs raise capital for the community loans. Little Emmanuel received this bike from our last container when his family purchased it at the community warehouse. He will soon learn to ride to ride on two wheels just like the previous owner of this bike.

Friday, August 4, 2017

One Bike, Two Wheels, Four Revolutions

This story of change begins with the bike, but it doesn't end there. Our donated bikes are helping to improve lives in so many ways in Costa Rica it's hard to keep track of them all. 

For you, that bike you donated may represent memories of fun times on the trail, easy commutes to work, or a milestone in your child's life when she took her first solo ride toward independence.

In Costa Rica that one bike might represent a ticket to improved education for a student, a job for a local mechanic, a tool for a struggling family, and a financial loan to improve a small business. 

FINCA Costa Rica has been working with Bikes for the World since 2005 to bring bicycles into small rural villages to improve transportation needs. But that wasn't the final goal of bringing bikes to these communities. Find out how your donated bikes are changing lives on two wheels and off in this short series highlighting the stories of five local entrepreneurs.

Maria Ignacia lives in a community known as Canalete in Upala, Costa Rica. She is part of the Community Credit Enterprise (ECC) that our partner FINCA Costa Rica helped establish. The ECC has over 100 members and each member has the ability to apply for a small business loan to help improve their productivity. 

Our bikes serve as the capital needed to grant these loans to members of the co-op. If an ECC requests a container or partial shipment of bicycles they prep our donated bikes for use and sell them among the community or to their neighbors. Each bike is sold for between $10-100 depending on the quality of the bike. The proceeds then get folded into this general fund for use among the community to improve their businesses, or sometimes to get a new one started.

Maria applied for a loan to help build a chicken coop to protect her main source of income for her family...egg production. She has been raising chickens and collecting eggs for the past year. She collects the eggs and sells them throughout the community to help provide for her and her family. 

FINCA helped facilitate the $1,800 loan she needed to build a small chicken coop. Her chickens are now better protected from the elements and their productivity is much improved. Maria now has more money for her family even while she works to pay back the loan to the ECC.

Tonito and Eduviges

Tonito and Eduviges are not related but both live in the same community as Maria, Canalete. Both received bikes from our shipment to this community in 2014. We had a chance to meet them when we visited the community that fall and even rode with Tonito through the community. 

Eduviges bought her bicycle through the co-op and she uses it to commute to work. Eduviges works on a lychee farm and used to get up at 5am to walk the two hours to the lychee field. She can now cover the same ground in less than half the time, saving time and energy.

Tonito is from a very poor family that lives in Nicaragua. They sent Tonito to Canalete to live with his grandfather in hopes of giving him a better life. The co-op members decided to give Tonito a bicycle and helmet to reward him for getting such good grades in school. 

Tonito was also on hand to help unload the bikes that were donated to the community and helped organize and prep them for sale. The sale of those bikes, including Eduviges's, may have helped provide the loan to Maria for her business.



Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Featured Volunteer: Margie Ligon

This month we head back down 95 South to our partners in Charleston, to recognize this month's volunteer Margie Ligon (here on the left).

Margie worked with the Youth Ministry at Philadelphia United Methodist Church in Fort Mill, South Carolina....barely....this is nearly on the North Carolina line, quite a distance from our warehouse in Charleston.

Here at home in DC, if someone had contacted us hoping to do a collection nearly 200 miles from our warehouse HQ we may have been forced to turn down the offer.   The strain on our resources may have been too great.

But when an entire United Methodist community comes together and offers a statewide challenge...you tend to pay attention and make exceptions.

And that is what brought Philadelphia UM and Margie Ligon and us together. Margie heard about Bikes for the World through a state UM conference where their Bishop offered up a challenge. He was asking each district to collect XX number of bikes (we don't know the actual number, but as Margie tells us it was not aggressive enough for her).

"I felt like my church by itself could collect what he was expecting an entire district of 66 churches to collect," thought Margie. Never one to sit back and wait, Margie cut to the chase, she contacted us directly here in DC and said, how do I get our church on your calendar?

We connected Margie with our area coordinator Paul Keefer in Charleston and the rest is sort of history.

She recruited the youth volunteers you see above to help collect and prep the used donated bikes. She also engaged the Youth Ministry in a fundraiser to help raise money to buy new bikes to supplement the donation...there was no way she was falling short of the Bishop's goal.

In fact Margie waged her own goal within their congregation, 200-300 bikes. What did Philadelphia UM end up collecting this spring? 289 bikes.

Charleston BfW bikes in Costa Rica
The youth group along with assistance from the men's group bought and assembled 114 brand new bikes to be donated among two BfW partners, CESTA in El Salvador and MiBici/FINCA Costa Rica.  But the outreach in the community also brought in 175 donated used bikes!

To quote BfW Coordinator Paul Keefer, "Margie don't mess around."

Those nearly 300 bikes were shared among two containers shipped in April and June from our location in Charleston. The first arrived in El Salvador and the second was shared among community groups in rural Costa Rica.

CESTA trained mechanic Cristian Martinez
In Costa Rica, bikes were sold to rural residents needing transportation for work and school. Money raised will help support many local businesses in the form of loans to increase production.

In El Salvador new mechanics like Cristian learn skills that will help them professionally to earn more for their families.

"I learned new skills, things I never did before, earn money, and also encouraging me to realize I could take on new challenges in other fields," Cristian Martinez.

Margie moved on to First United Methodist Church of Belmont North Carolina where she was recruited to help the Youth Ministry there. From what we've seen at BfW when Margie puts her mind, heart, and soul into something she affects positive results. We have no doubt there are great things in store for Belmont. And we hope to partner with Margie again soon.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

We've Been Invaded By Canada....Again

DC Serve Canadian/Michigan based crew
Joining forces with volunteers from around the globe, Bikes for the World kicked off July by desperately trying to empty out the warehouse to make a little room to move around. We failed, by the way. Still stacked to the rafters with bikes, which is not a bad problem to have because it means more bikes to donate!

BfW, keeping with our annual tradition, welcomed two crews from DC Serve to help load the first container of bikes heading to Costa Rica. The crews, largely from Canada, worked through one of the hottest weeks of the year to start and finish a container on back to back days.

Cypriots welcoming the Birzers from the Carroll Creek Rotary
Then, just when we thought it couldn't get any hotter, it did. The following week we brought in another container and welcomed back the Cyprus Friendship crew, who hasn't visited us since we left King Farm. Now that we are back in Montgomery County we were thrilled to have a group of six girls back with us again from this amazing program.

Cyprus is located in the Eastern Mediterranean  with Turkey to the north and Greece to the west. Cyprus is divided in two with Turkish-speaking Muslims on the north and Greek-speaking Christians on the south. This deeply divided nation has been at odds for generations and Cyprus Friendship Program is one way they are trying to change attitudes and bring a more peaceful future to its people.

The program pairs two girls (or boys), one from the north and one from the south, and challenges them to work together, live together, laugh together: ultimately creating a bond they will hopefully keep upon their return home and serve as an example to their families and friends. A catalyst to change. They spend one month here in the US with host families and participate in numerous peace focused workshops.

When they visited us, we put wrenches in their hands and put them right to work. At the beginning of our day we asked if they had ever worked on a bicycle before and they collectively said no. By the end they were tearing through our bikes like seasoned bike mechanics. We apologized for the sweltering, muggy DC heat wave that plagued their visit and they said, no worries, it's just like home!

Not to create any rivalries here in our  bipartisan warehouse, but it was no contest between the Cypriot youth when asked which is better, Baltimore or DC. On the topic of healthcare, the Canadians said, good luck with that, we're good. It's a small, small world here in our warehouse.

Bikes for the World has nearly 1,000 bikes now on the way to Costa Rica to share among about half a dozen urban and rural communities. These bikes will provide much needed affordable transportation for work and school, but they will also be part of a bigger economic impact we will tell you about in upcoming posts. Check back soon...