Bikes for the World

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Go Joe!

The Bikes for the Philippines' Bikes for Education project is one of our favorite projects we donate bikes to and not just because we've been there, met the beneficiaries, and even rode to and from school with them. This program, which was started about a year ago, provides bicycles to students who live over 3 km from school in an effort to keep them enrolled in school and eventually graduating. The students are taught how to ride, basic mechanic skills, and overall bike safety as part of the school curriculum.  THIS is why we love this project!

Courtesy: The Coffee
We were excited to learn that Bikes for the Philippines had successfully documented the first installment of bikes that were distributed in Baclayon, where we visited. They were ready for container TWO! This shipment of bikes, using the same model, would be used in the village of Maribojoc, very near Baclayon, again on the island of Bohol. Students will be hand selected and interviewed before entering the program. As with the pilot project, students will be allowed to use the bikes to get to and from school only, earning them upon graduation.

Andrew Glover with Plong-Plong in NJ
Back at home we had been collecting bikes, some specifically for this project. Jo Grant, who approached BfW for bikes for BfP had a collection in Boston earlier this year. Joel Esguerra, working with Gensler, has done a ton of fundraising for this project, as well has holding a collection this summer.

Plong-Plong, seen here in his BfW Tshirt, donated several bikes he collected in his NJ neighborhood for BfW. Because Plong-Plong is from Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines (the city between the two Bikes for Education projects) we made an exception and set those bikes aside for the Philippines shipment.
Bolandrina family

Fast forward to November. Joe Bolandrina and family, Grethel, Lilly, and Max! packed up the car and drove from Massachusetts all the way to our Lorton VA storage site to help us load this next container for the Philippines. Grethel had moved from the Philippines in the 80s and Joe had helped out at that collection outside Boston in the spring. They fell in love with the program and had to help!

And help they did. We got over 500 bikes in this container, which is now on its way to the Philippines. This family of four must have rolled 2/3 of the bikes in there themselves. Lilly and Max were troopers. Max struggled with quite a few bikes that towered over his head, but never gave up. And Lilly documented the whole trip for a school project. In fact we already had a donation from their school come in after a student carried home a flyer in his backpack about our project.

Lilly Bolandrina loading a bike from Massachusetts
"I'm Lilly Bolandrina. I helped Bikes for the Philippines donate bikes for kids and adults in the Philippines. I did this because my dad wanted us to come and see what it is like to go to Virginia and watch him help Keith ( the person who does Bikes for the World) donate these bikes. Bikes for the World helps Bikes for the Philippines. Instead of just watching my dad help I helped as well. I wheeled bikes from the abandoned prison gym to the container that gets shipped to the Philippines. It was very hard because most bikes were very heavy and the wheels would not turn on some.It was really cool to see all the different sized bikes and a couple of tricycles. Some of the bikes also were missing parts so they looked funny. We helped for four hours until we had to leave.

Lilly and Max sealing the container

Then tomorrow we came back again to finish loading the container with bikes. We crammed 501 or 502 bikes into the container . Most of the bikes were mountain bikes and baby bikes. Still, there were some road bikes and quite a lot of young children bikes. On the second day of filling the container we only had to work for two hours. I got to give the very last bike to go inside the container. Then my little brother and I put the little I.D. tag on the container to show that it hasn't been opened yet."

Thank you Lilly, Max, Grethel, and Joe! The next step is traveling to Maribojoc to meet the bike beneficiaries and ride with them. I'm pretty sure I saw Joe marking a bike to be set aside for him to borrow while he is there! It would be a treat to track Plong-Plong's (a long time friend of Joe's) donations as well as bikes the Bolandrina's donated.

Check out Joe's enthusiasm as he donates his older son's first Gary Fisher:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Teaming Up In Africa

Bikes arriving in Kenya
Bikes for the World is shipping to Kenya again this weekend. It's our last loading of the year and we need your help out at Lorton.

Friday December 14   10am - 2pm

Saturday December 15   10am - 2pm

Wheels of Africa (WoA) is one of our new programs of 2012. The organization was established in 2008 to bring awareness to cycling in Kenya and in turn making cycling safer in remote areas. But it's not just a cycling 'club'. Wheels of Africa provides donated bikes at affordable prices to people who would otherwise not be able to afford one.

WoA helps put more people on bikes and keep them safe
They have also donated some of the bikes given to their program to further their mission of increasing cycling in Kenya. They recently donated five bikes to Our Lady of Peace Primary School. The also took part in a Training Program in Nairobi teaching kids bike handling to sharpen their riding skills.

In addition to the work they are doing in the community to get more people skilled and on bikes, they are also providing adventure rides to tourists of all skill levels.  So if you are in Nairobi anytime soon, look them up!

Ivy lives 3km from school in Baclayon, Philippines
One of the aspects of cycling we at Bikes for the World have always been concerned about is safety. From our offices in the DC area, however, we can provide helmets with our shipments, but we can't be sure they are being used. In the Philippines, for example, the kids in the program are REQUIRED to wear a helmet while on a bike and it is strictly enforced. It's a contained area with not many kids on bikes, they are easy to pick out.

But when you ship bikes to an area such as Kenya or Namibia and the bikes are being dispersed over a large area to adults and kids it's harder to track who is doing what. This is when it's great to be working with established nonprofits on the other side with people on the ground doing that leg work for you.
Paulina Endjala, BEN Namibia's mechanic trainer

Even better is when two partners team up and work together. That's what BEN Namibia (another BfW partner) is doing with Wheels of Africa. BENN now has mechanics on the ground training new mechanics involved with the WoA program in Kenya. Currently, Paulina Endjala has been training mechanics on the island of Mfangano as part of an initiative of Bicycles for Humanity Colorado.

Here is an email they just received from Samwel, one of Paulina's trainees:
"Yes aim samwel from Kenya i am living in a small island around lake victory, i would like to take this chance to thank your organization for sending one of your trainer madam polina to our island mfangano . me samwel i was blessed so much.May God bless you samwel."
  post.  Here you can see a group from the Kaoko Bicycle Shop, a remote shop set up by BENN, with their Christmas stock of solar lights ready to sell.
Elephant Energy with BENN
Another group out of Colorado helping to bring safety to Namibia is Elephant Energy, who we told you about in a previous

Elephant Energy has been working with BENN to bring solar power to the remote villages where they have set up bike shops using the containers our bikes are shipped in. Using the BENN network of employees (trainers) Elephant Energy has been able to train locals in solar power, how to repair the lights and solar pads, and how to sell the product.

Courtesy BENN
We are pleased to see this partnership forming between two of our partners in Africa, Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN) and Wheels of Africa. With the successful model of BENN behind them and the partners BENN has established in Africa, Wheels of Africa has a great hub in place in moving forward.

From October 1st BENN facebook page:
BEN Namibia today began its support programme for partner organisation, Wheels of Africa, in Nairobi. BEN Namibia will assist WoA with strategic planning, mechanic and business training and share our experiences with developing a network of 30 bicycle shops in Namibia. The WoA bike shop was started with support from Wheels of Change, Montana, and Tour d'Afrique foundation, both BEN Namibia partners.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Big Bear Bike Sale

Saturday December 8th 10am-2pm

Tis the Season...for buying a bike AND supporting your favorite local non-profit. Several times a year Big Bear Cafe opens their outdoor area to local bike non-profits Bikes for the World and Phoenix Bikes for a big used bike sale.

For you it's a great time to come out and find the perfect used bike at an affordable price. For us it helps raise funds to support our international mission by selling off some of the high end road bikes unsuitable for the terrain of our international partners. Not only that but we get to promote one of our favorite local youth projects: Phoenix Bikes.

Courtesy Phoenix Bikes

Phoenix Bikes is THAT local group YOU keep asking us about! Phoenix Bikes is located in South Arlington and reaches out to area youth to get them involved and active in the cycling community.

Why are they so cool? Besides the biking aspect you mean? It's the kids of course. Phoenix is not just a local bike club or bike shop, they run a youth development education program and Earn-A-Bike program. The participants in the program are trained in bike mechanics, learn life skills, engage in problem solving, and learn the value of giving back to the community. These kids are learning valuable skills that will help them throughout their lives, all from the saddles of their bikes.

The bikes Phoenix collects come from a variety of sources just like ours at Bikes for the World. We value this project for what it gives these kids as well as the community we live and work in. Phoenix Bikes is actually a huge supporter of Bikes for the World! They often get in plenty of bikes that aren't suitable for their program that they in turn donate to BfW.

The ones they keep the kids work on, earn, and sell in the bike shop that helps support the program. Refurbishing bikes is something we at BfW don't have the staff to keep up with given we collect over 10,000 bikes a year. We will be at the Big Bear sale this weekend with about a dozen or so high end or vintage road bikes that were donated to us. These select frames can do more to further our global mission if we sell them locally than ship them overseas where they may not be suitable for the job in front of them. Our expert mechanic (and Operations Manager) Nick Colombo has tuned up these bikes and will have them available for sale from 10am - 2pm but come early, they go quick.

Phoenix Bikes will have a larger selection and variety. If you are looking for a mountain bike, single speed, cruiser, or hybrid this is the place to be! All proceeds from the sale will benefit our respective organizations and help us keep doing what we are doing. See you at the Sale!

Big Bear Cafe
 1700 1st St (1st and R St)  NW DC 
Saturday December 8th
10am - 2pm

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Powered By Education


Joe Israel was one of the first bike recipients in the Bikes for Education program in Baclayon, on the island of Bohol, Philippines. Through this program students were identified and interviewed by local Bikes for the World partner, Bikes for the Philippines (BfP). The bikes are intended to help students living over 3km from school to stay enrolled in class by loaning them a faster, safer means of transportation.

The drop out rate in Baclayon, like many other communities in the Philippines, is in danger of rising due to the location of the schools in relation to the students' homes. In the village of Baclayon there are many primary schools but only one high school. Therefore, even if a student lives relatively close to school chances are once they enter high school they may not. Two of the critical areas forcing students to drop out are household income and distance from school. Many of the students are an integral part of the household, completing essential chores or helping to care for younger siblings, and the time spent walking to school (sometimes over 4 hours a day) becomes too big a burden on many families. That is why these two factors played a big part in who was chosen by BfP to receive a bicycle.

Joe mentors younger girls in mechanics
 What BfP and the teachers running the program found was the bicycle offered much more than just a means to better transportation. All the bike recipients are required to go through a pretty tough training program in order to earn a bicycle.  Some didn't know how to ride at all and almost all knew nothing about changing a tire or cleaning a chain.

Just learning to ride offered a new sense of confidence to these beneficiaries. The local bike club joined the students on Saturdays and took them on community rides providing a unique mentoring program to the older students. Once the kids became more skilled they in turn mentored the younger students who received their bikes later. The donation process was staggered to allow for this students-training-students model.

The Boys of Baclayon
When I was there in February I not only met Joe (in the black shirt Left) but I also got to ride with him and all of the students from Baclayon National High School. What I found was a strong group of riders (who kicked my butt on the steep rocky hills of Baclayon) and a caring, considerate clique. Joe made sure I never got lost on the remote trails and delivered me safely to my hotel in the dark.

On one of the rides, one student fell coming down a steep hill. All of the boys we were riding with stopped, organized, and made sure she was taken care of properly. Some of the boys went and got help (she was pretty shaken up but not seriously injured) and the others stayed with Michelle holding and supporting her until help came. I was very touched by their sensitivity and maturity. The camaraderie our donated bikes brought this group of students was beyond inspirational.

Joe received training at The Rock a local bakery
Spring 2012 the first group of students have graduated from school and this pilot bike program, earning them the bike and more importantly, their high school diplomas. Several bike beneficiaries went on to train in fields such as hospitality and organic farming.

The community has recognized the impact this bike program has on the entire village.  In fact, several local businesses stepped up to offer internships to graduating beneficiaries. Joe went on to receive training at Rock111 a local bakery learning the basics of running a bakery business. He joined several other bike beneficiaries including Joan Igcas in this life sculpting opportunity.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bikes For Education


For Ron and Sherwin a bicycle could be the difference between graduating and not finishing school at all. In fact, many students in Baclayon, a remote community on the island of Bohol Philippines, travel many miles every day just to get to and from school. With only one high school in the village, students are often forced to travel more miles once they move up in school. This burdens not only the student but the entire family as less time can be devoted to necessary household chores.

The road to the Narbay's
Ron and Sherwin leave their house at 5am every morning in hopes of arriving to school on time after walking the two hour commute. The rough roads of Baclayon are long and rocky. After the rain, the roads become dangerously slippery. Some students do not even have shoes and most cannot afford transportation IF it even approaches their homes.

Both Ron and Sherwin have fallen on the slippery terrain after running in an attempt to make it to school on time. Students are not allowed to enter the classroom if they are late. They must wait until the afternoon session, causing them to miss half the school day.
Rowena Narbay, mother of Sherwin and Ron

The boys admit it would be easier many days to just not go to school. But they also know that the small sacrifices are worth the end result. Their parents did not finish school and struggle to find work to make ends meet. When Sherwin asked his mom for a bicycle to make the trip to school easier, she reluctantly had to tell him they could not afford it.

After a long day at school and a two hour commute home, students are exhausted and often racing daylight. Sometimes they don't even have enough time to finish their homework after completing the household chores at night. Teachers have also found students tired and distracted in the classrooms.

Since Bikes for the Philippines partnered with Bikes for the World students who live over 3km from school became eligible to receive a loaned bicycle through the program. Students who had once dropped out completely came back to school through this program and at least one of them has graduated back into the mainstream education system. Teachers tell stories of students who are more focused and on time for school. Parents are proud to have their children enrolled and thriving in school. There's plenty of time of chores and homework and most importantly, hope for the future.

Ron and Sherwin tell their story to Ako Ang Simula, a local television program:
(with English subtitles)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bike To School

Bike Train USA Photo Courtesy Bruce Buckley                                                                                              
At Bikes for the World we are in the practice of showing you where in the world your bike ends up. But we all know where it came from is just as important. Many of our donated bikes come to us with a lifetime of memories. A bike that ends up in rural Africa helping a banana farmer or one that is keeping a young Filipino in school once spun around our suburban neighborhoods perhaps in Northern Virginia or Western Maryland.

Every bike has a story. In fact here's a local story about school students using their bikes to get to school right here in Virginia. Wolfie's Bike Train began in 2011 under the supervision of Jeff Anderson, cyclist and Dad of three. Once a month this Bike Train leaves their neighborhood collecting kids along the way and safely delivering them to school via their own pedal power.

Students at Colvin Run Elementary
Besides loving the commute to school these young cyclists are giving a fresh, energetic voice to the true power of the bicycle. And for them it's not just about riding.

Bikes for the World frequently partners with area schools and youth groups who lead and manage many of our bike collections and help load bikes to be shipped overseas. It is beyond inspirational to basically see kids helping kids get to school on the other side of the world.

It is a unique experience for these kids to do something in their own backyard that has such a global impact. Meanwhile, on the backside of the globe, students of the same age are receiving, sometimes, their very first bikes through the generosity of these students in the DC area. This is a Bike Train that spans the ocean!

Schools often use this Bikes for the World experience in tandem with various lesson plans to bring the culture of another country into the classroom as well as teaching the value of community service and the importance of recycling. It's truly a win, win, win.
"I'm so glad we have you as a partner. It is such a great learning experience for the kids. They thoroughly got into it and to helping others in far off lands." Marlene Guroff, Colvin Run Counselor.
 "We felt so good about our collection, and the kids came through in spades to help out!  Those who went to the bike shop to learn the process were great mentors to the others, and they actually enjoyed the process of breaking down the bikes.  We had several girls who learned to wield a wrench with the best of the boys!!!" Becky Copenhaver, Cape Fear Academy NC
"We only have one planet. We can't spoil it." Joshua Spokes, Student Collection Manager
To learn more about how your school or youth group can get involved visit Bikes for the World and check out this video highlighting school involvement.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Little Bike That Could


Do you remember your first bike? Joan Igcas does. In fact it's only been about a year since she first learned how to ride it. You'd never guess it if you rode next to her. The roads she travels on her mile commute to school are steep and say they are a challenge to navigate on a bicycle is an understatement. And she handles them like a pro.

Joan was one of about 80 students in Baclayon on the island of Bohol, Philippines to receive a bicycle through the program Bikes for the Philippines. Like many of her classmates, Joan had no idea how to ride a bike. She told us she was nervous and found it to be tiring:

As part of the school curriculum, the bike beneficiaries of this program are taught how to ride, proper handling skills, bike safety, and bike maintenance. Students are required to wear helmets and may only use the loaned bicycles to get to and from school.

Once they graduate, the bike is turned over to them and they may use it to continue their studies, get to and from work, or however they wish. The goal of the program is to keep kids enrolled in school. The bi-product has been creating hopes and dreams in young people who once had neither.

This program has been so successful in Baclayon, Bikes for the Philippines is now preparing to have a second container of bikes shipped through Bikes for the World to a new project in Maribojoc, a nearby community also on the island of Bohol.

You can follow their progress on facebook. To support the program, donations are accepted through Bikes for the World by indicating PHILIPPINES in the Designation Code Box on the donation form.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Delivering More Than Just Bikes

Jose and Rosa Hernandez
Jose and Rosa Hernandez and their children live in the community of Los Limones in northeast El Salvador. The family lives off $2/day, does not own any land, and has no access to electricity. Not a single family member has a middle school education. However, when Koji Ukai, a local Peace Corps volunteer, conducted a survey in 2011 and asked for their opinion as to the most important need in the community, the family answered that access to potable water was a clear priority.

Los Limones is fortunate to have a water system, but after 15 years of use it no longer meets the community’s needs. Of the community’s 132 homes, nearly 70 are not connected and must borrow water from neighbors or use nearby rivers. In the dry season, even the houses that are connected experience shortages. The current arrangement of dividing the community into six different sectors, each receiving two hours of water per day, has put an abnormally heavy strain on the system’s piping, creating maintenance issues and disputes between community members and the water committee.

With these problems in mind, Koji and the community’s water committee began a year-long process of petitioning help from local NGOs. In February 2012, they finally succeeded with the signing of a bilateral agreement between the NGO World Vision and the local municipal government, promising $80,000 in funding to upgrade the water collection system, tank, and network. With the support of over 3,000 hours of organized labor provided by the members of Los Limones and detailed blueprints from students at the University of El Salvador-San Miguel, construction is nearly 90% complete as of November 2012.

Arlington County VA meters
Members of this 'potable water mission' all quickly agreed on the importance of water meters for success. Potable water administered via the use of meters would allow the water committee to transition from a sector-based system to a one with 24-hour access.Unfortunately, Salvadoran culture dictates that the future beneficiary pay for the water meters, which can cost as much as $45 each. Realizing the potential for failure in a crucial portion of the project, Koji was introduced to Bikes for the World. We worked in coordination with Arlington County, Virginia to find and ship 150 used water meters to El Salvador in a container of bikes that went out this summer to partner program CESTA (The Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology).  . Arlington recently replaced all the meters in its system with meters which can be read remotely and donated the old meters to this project.
Old Arlington meters in use in El Salvador

The Los Limones water project looks very promising at this point. At least 140 of the 150 donated meters are working properly and are more than adequate for rural El Salvador. One provisional meter has been installed and average water consumption has been tracked in preparation for community-wide installation. By January 2013, Los Limones will have access to 24-hour potable water in a safe and sustainable form. More importantly, 70 more families, such as that of Jose and Rosa Hernandez, will have the dignity of having potable water access for the first time in their lives. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Update from Rural Bike Safety Project

Security Guard with reflective tape on his bike
Carlos Ovalle recently traveled to Esteli, Jinotega, and other rural areas of Nicaragua on a personal crusade to bring safety to riders in the remote regions this country. Bikes for the World has often voiced concern over the safety of our beneficiaries in pockets of the world that lacks the infrastructure that is usually laid to protect cyclists here in the States. When we heard of Ovalle's mission, we decided to support it!

What Ovalle is doing is buying reflective tape, of the same quality used by the Department of Transportation, personally transporting it to Nicaragua (and hopefully other countries in the future), and affixing it to bikers' frames.

Photo Courtesy AW4F and Connie Weaver
Darkness is a huge problem in the country, even here in the US. Many bikes overseas are not even sold with reflectors as they are here at home.

The type of tape Ovalle is using is similar to what these cyclists use on Race Across America. This race is a nonstop journey across the country 24 hours a day through many unlit areas of the United States. It is a requirement of the race to have this type of reflective tape on all frames, wheels, and shoes of the riders; so we know it works!

The following is an excerpt from Ovalle's account of how he got started on this noble mission:
Carlos Ovalle at tobacco plant in Esteli
On one of my trips to Nicaragua a couple of years ago I commented to some folks down there about how difficult it was to see cyclists, particularly on dark rural roads. In my last three trips to Nicaragua I've seen only one bike with lights, and only one in 10 with minimal (rear only, or pedals only) reflectors.

When I asked, the reasons for this varied, but mostly had to do with the fact that inexpensive imports from China don't have reflectors...there are no rules that require manufacturers or importers to provide reflectors.

A few years ago I purchased a 45 year old Claude Butler frame in a garage sale. That frame, said the owner, had been covered in large swaths of reflective tape some 20 years day I brought it out and attempted to remove the reflective tape to no avail. I decided that this was the way to go.

Reflective tape has a tenacious hold, maintains its initial reflectivity for about 5 years, after which it declines a little. It doesn't rattle off on dirt roads, it's thick and has a clear layer over the actual reflective base so it withstands numerous cleanings and abrasion....

  • To read more about Ovalle's trip and see more pictures visit his Flickr page.
  • To support his cause: Click on the link on the right side of this page (Donate Money) and in the Designation Code Box simply type Rural Bike Safety Project and we will make sure your donation goes to this specific mission within Bikes for the World.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Forging Freedom in El Salvador


Courtesy CESTA
El pasado 26 de febrero un Grupo de más de 100 Jóvenes, tuvieron la gran oportunidad de andar en bicicleta por el centro de San Salvador.
This past February 26, a group of more than 100 young people had the grand opportunity of riding bikes through the downtown of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. 

No tuviera mayor importancia, sino fuera porque 70 de estos jóvenes son muchachos y muchachas que están recluidos en centros de rehabilitación del Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo Integral de la Niñez y Adolescencia (ISNA). Algunos de ellos están en esos lugares por abandono de sus padres y otros por delitos menores.

Distinguishing this group is that at least 70 of these young men and women are residents of the half-way houses of the Salvadoran Institute for the Integral Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA), many housed in these institutions owing to parental abandonment or minor juvenile mis-deeds.

Ese día el ISNA junto con el grupo de ciclistas llamados Bici crítica organizó una bicicletada, apoyados por CESTA. Esta es una de las maneras de cómo se está buscando combatir la delincuencia en el país, buscando mecanismos y espacios donde la juventud pueda tener oportunidades de invertir su tiempo, fuerza, deporte y porque no también disfrutar de diversión.

This event was co-organized by ISNA and the cycling advocacy organization Critical Bicycle (Bici Crítica), supported with bicycles provided by the Salvadoran Appropriate Technology Center (CESTA).  This is one of the ways showing how juvenile delinquency can be addressed, identifying mechanisms and opportunities  where young people can invest their time and energies, in sport and simple recreation.

Estos jóvenes son líderes positivos que el Instituto está promoviendo para demostrar que es posible combatir la delincuencia por medio de diferentes actividades.
 These young people are examples of positive leadership, demonstrating that juvenile delinquency can be combatted by healthy activities.   
CESTA is supported by:
·         Bikes for the World
·         Bikes Not Bombs
·         Cycle North-South
·         Pedals for Progress