Bikes for the World

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What a Trek!

This blue Trek has had a long and happy life. This bike belonged to Wendy and she learned how to jump logs, scream through streams, and even how to fall not-so-gracefully on many a mountain trail. It's been to the hills of West Virginia, the beaches of Cape Cod, even across the ferry and into the city streets of Boston.

After upgrading her ride with a better mountain bike we converted this one for a more urban experience and kept it going for our jaunts into DC. After time we bought a hybrid and this trusty Trek hung unused in the shed for many years. After learning of a shipment heading to students in the Philippines Wendy finally found the courage to say goodbye to a very good friend of many years, "It just made sense; this bike was still in great shape, it's why I held on to it. But I wasn't using it anymore and I saw the benefit it could bring someone overseas."

And so the Trek journeys on. Within months, Wendy's old bike found a new home in a very different environment.

This Trek now belongs to Danilo, a junior at Concepcion Integrated School in San Simon, Pampanga Philippines. Rather than taking up space in our shed it is now improving Danilo's life allowing him to stay in school, get an education, and follow his dreams of becoming a police officer.

Danilo is the son of a vegetable farmer and housewife. He wants to become a policeman so that he can aid and protect his community. He realizes the value of an education but struggles to help support his family while staying in school due to the long commute.

Wendy's old bike will enable him to travel to school more efficiently, saving him time and energy. Many kids his age are forced to drop out of school when the family is faced with the choice of sending a teen to school or putting him to work in the fields. With this bike, Danilo will be able to save time on his commute to school AND still help his father out in the fields.

Before becoming a bike beneficiary, Danilo used to walk to school with his younger brother. The trip took Danilo 90 minutes on foot but now he can roll to school in a quarter of the time.

Every morning before school, Danilo heads to the cabbage fields his father tends and helps water the crops. Given the extreme heat in the Philippines, Danilo has to return to the fields immediately after school to water the crops again. The money he earns is shared with his family to help with expenses.

Now, with his bike, Danilo can make the trips to school and the fields much faster, giving him more time to devote to school, work, and after a long busy day, some much needed rest.

But given his desire to serve and protect...Danilo doesn't stop there. With the hours saved every day Danilo not only helps his family, but also the bike beneficiaries enrolled in the program. Danilo enjoys leading the community rides aimed at improving riding skills and teaching road safety to all the beneficiaries.

His leadership qualities shine through during these training rides and throughout the repair workshops at the school. He also stepped up to help build the bike room at the school. His bike coordinator reports that Danilo was always ready to do whatever job was needed whether that was mixing cement or laying the bricks for the walls. He is a very active volunteer in the program and always met everyone with a smile on his face.

"I am so happy that Danilo can use my old bike to stay in school. It is admirable that he wants to give back to his community by becoming a police officer. I'm also impressed how much he gives back to this program and the students who receive the bikes we donate. It makes so much more sense to give our old bikes a new home especially when we aren't using them anymore. Enjoy the ride Danilo!" Wendy, previous Trek owner, generous Trek donor said. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Featured Volunteer: Lucas Kramer


These kids above are some of our Filipino beneficiaries from Batangas Talahib Pandayan National High School and they are personally saying thank you to our Featured Volunteer of the month Lucas Kramer. So who the heck is Lucas and what makes him so special?

I actually know Lucas's parents from way back, but I only just met Lucas at the Alternative Gift Fair in Takoma Park a few years ago. He was there to make a donation to Bikes for the World and several other organizations. We actually see him every year when he donates part of his allowance to help kids in the Philippines get bikes and tubes. And well we think that's pretty darn cool. And so did they. And they wanted to share their gratitude.

Last year Bikes for the World had to sit the Alternative Gift Fair out to give other non-profits a chance so we didn't see Lucas there. But lucky us, he needed a few volunteer hours for school and he turned up in our warehouse just last month! Not only was this kid smashing open his piggy bank to support us, but he also wanted to put a little muscle into it.

When his mom challenged him to consider donating some of his allowance during his volunteer visit he didn't hesitate to open up his charity jar and dump out the contents, entirely! "As a parent, what I love is how proud he was to bring you that envelope of money. He's beginning to connect the dots of giving wealth AND time to causes he believes in," reported Karla.

And that he did. The whole family rolled up their sleeves and grabbed wrenches to help us prep some bikes to ship overseas. And we told the kids in the Philippines about that too and again they were like, WOW! that guy's younger than us and he's in there helping us get bikes?! They made a video and sent that our way to share with Lucas.

Dave said, "that left the kid speechless, introspective and then super-motivated to volunteer again!" And after Lucas saw the video he was all smiles, "I feel like such a good person right now."

The cool thing about our volunteer opportunities is that they are great for families. It's a fun activity that gives back and truly makes a difference around the world. For the Kramers it was a good team effort that allowed Lucas to fully participate despite some physical limitations. Like many kids that come through our warehouse he struggled with the occasional rusty pedal which his mom was able to help torque off in a pinch.

Lucas is your typical pre-teen boy. He loves playing video games and building things with Legos. His favorite classes in school are art, lunch and PE. He's crazy about dogs. He loves to eat, Thai, 100%. He likes the beach, loves to swim, and enjoys riding motorcycle with his dad.

But Lucas never learned how to ride a bike, it's a small regret his mom shared with us. He likes being out on the bike with them but they worried about the hills and torque necessary to pedal a bike through an obstacle. You see unlike other kids who come through our warehouse Lucas truly does have a bigger challenge on those rusty parts that require a little more muscle than others; Lucas has Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Because September is Duchenne Awareness Month we wanted to bring you Lucas's whole story. In our warehouse we will be showing our muscle in support of Lucas and we are asking you to do the same. September 7th is World Duchenne Awareness Day and we are asking you to support Lucas by becoming more aware of his disease.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy affects 1 in every 3,500 live male births which accumulates to about 20,000 new cases each year world wide. Duchenne results in progressive loss of strength and is caused by a mutation in the gene that encodes for dystrophin. In layman’s terms, because dystrophin is absent, muscle cells are easily damaged. This slowly happens which can lead to medical problems that eventually affect the heart and lungs. Although Duchenne can be passed from parent to child, approximately 35% of cases occur because of a random spontaneous mutation. In other words, it can affect anyone. There is no cure for Duchenne.

What does this mean for Lucas? We ask you to watch the video below to learn more about this disease. Basically, due to the lack of production of a specific protein called dystrophin, he does not build normal muscle. Weight bearing physical activities and going up & down stairs causes scar tissue to build up in his muscles, most notable in his thick calves. He can do permanent irreversible damage by doing anything that is weight bearing.

Back to that original question of this post...who the heck is Lucas and what makes him so special? Well, as I stated earlier I am biased, so you can judge that for yourself. But if you've ever seen his electric smile, been on the opposing end of his quick wit, or exchanged commentary on whether dinner was spicy enough...I suspect you already know the answer to that question!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Girl With a Vision

This is Honey Jane, a determined young woman from a remote island in the Philippines. From her small village in Mindanao the opportunities available to kids her age seemed light years away.

In fact, her home city of Misamis Oriental might well have felt like living on another planet when looking at a map of her sprawling country of islands. Manila, the main city, was more than a day away and involved a trip by car and boat. The cost of a plane ticket was out of the question.

And yet, even as a young girl, Honey set her sights on what lay beyond Mindanao. At 14, Honey hopped on a boat and came to the main island of Luzon to see what she could find in the big city. While she was living with her cousin in Angono, she learned about the local arts school, Regional School for the Arts Angono (RLSAA).

Honey wasn't an artist. At this point she had even dropped out of school and was no longer a student. But her cousin's neighbor told her about RLSAA and how they offered free tuition. The school was also committed to re-enrolling out of school youth just like Honey.

Right about this time, Bikes for the Philippines (BfP) was being introduced into the school system. And out-of-school youth had become a focal point for the program. Getting students back in school earning diplomas was exactly what this education focused program was all about.

Len Carbonnel is the mathematics teacher at RLSAA and also the BfP bike coordinator for the school. When she heard Honey's story she couldn't get her a bike fast enough...and ultimately, back in class.

It wasn't long before Honey's grades started improving. At the beginning of this year, her senior year, she was recognized for her continued improvement. She loved her school, her family of bike beneficiaries, and her fellow photographers with whom she learned, played, and enjoyed life.

At graduation, Honey was all smiles as she clutched her diploma in one hand and her newly earned bicycle in the other. This girl had taken on the world and came out on top.

But now what? She was still the girl from a poor family on the far side of the Philippines. Opportunity still felt slightly out of reach.

Thanks to Bikes for the Philippines Honey still had a home around bikes. She was so thankful for the doors BfP opened for her she wanted to give back to the program after graduation. She joined the crew and volunteered to pay it forward. She became a mechanic, trainer, and overall mentor to younger cyclists, just like she had been.

Honey continued to impress everyone around her. This was a selfless woman who never gave up. She was clearly willing to learn anything and keep trying until she excelled at it. This would surely take her far in life.

Honey found out about a scholarship to a vo-tech school that would pay for her tuition, room and board, and any added fees associated with her training. Many of these scholarships actually go unfilled due to incomplete applications. But with the help of someone Honey met through the BfP program she successfully completed the application and turned it in. And she waited.

Then just this week, Honey took her first plane ride when she flew from Misamis to Manila for an interview to be accepted into the scholarship program. And within 24 hours, Honey found out she was one of the eleven scholars accepted into the program. She will now continue her education at the Technical Training Center where she will learn Mechatronics Servicing.

And yes, she is absolutely still biking!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pop Quiz


TRUE OR FALSE:

Joseph Tetteh is the first teacher to arrive at school every morning.

TRUE. He is now that he has a bicycle. Joseph is a teacher from Gomoa Abonko, Ghana and he received his bicycle this year from our partner Village Bicycle Project.

Joseph used to walk about five miles a day to and from work. He was often late and struggled to complete his daily assignments. He had very little time to interact with students one on one.

With his new bicycle he saves a lot of time and energy on his commute, leaving him more time to devote to his students and class work. In fact, last term, Joseph was one of the district's highest performing teachers.

MULTIPLE CHOICE:

Both Isata and Ramatullai are:

A Truant Officers
B. Bus Drivers
C. Teachers
D. All of the Above

The answer is D, All of the Above. Ramatullai (foreground) and Isata (back) both teach at Bakhita Kindergarten School in Lunsar, Sierra Leone. And they both play an active role in making sure the community youngsters are where they need to be....school!

Rumatullai uses her bike twice a week to visit the homes of children who should be in school but aren't. By making these home visits, teachers are able to get to know the parents while checking in on the students and making sure they get their butts to school!

ESSAY.

Describe the connection between a bicycle, attendance, and education- using a teacher in your example:

Isata also lives and teaches in Lunsar, 120 miles from the capital of Freetown. Until Village Bicycle Project visited Lunsar and Isata enrolled in a Learn 2 Ride program she had never been on a bicycle before.

Isata uses her bike to visit kids who aren't showing up for class. But she takes it one step further. For those truant tots living within a two mile radius of the school, don't be surprised if Isata picks you up, throws you over the top tube, and pedals you to class herself!

Isata understands the struggle these kids have living in this area, but she also knows the value of a good education. Because many of the families in the community are very poor, even the youngest members have to pull their share. Many school aged children are forced to stay home to help with chores. This allows their older siblings to help in the fields to earn more money for the family, but it also keeps the youngest kids from learning.

When Miss Isata shows up on the bike to pick up kids, she shortens the walking commute time so significantly that she is able to get some of those closer students to school a few times a week. That's one dedicated educator! Bikes + Books = SMART.

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...