Bikes for the World

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Giving Used Bikes a Second Life

Carl Henn Memorial Ride 2011
By now you've heard us rave about the recent partnership with Dick's Sporting Goods and Bikes for the World. While this Trade Up program brought us thousands of bikes, what it also did was help Americans upgrade their rides and hopefully encouraged more bike use right here in the States.

Bikes for the World not only promotes cycling as transportation overseas, but we fully support advocacy efforts right here in the DC area too. We have participated in Bike To Work events, numerous Bike Fairs in communities and schools, and supported the Carl Henn Memorial ride in 2011.
Nick and Chris at Spokes Belle View
In fact, BfW has partnered with many local bike shops over the years who serve as Drop Off points for us year round. It is a relationship we are all proud of. We have gotten over 1,000 bikes from our local shop partners this year alone and over 1,500 last year. In addition to bike donations, shops will donate used tubes, tires, and parts that we in turn ship overseas to help mechanics there maintain the bikes we are sending.

Our relationship with bike shops is how we hope to help grow the number of people out on bikes in our area. Upgrading or fixing a bicycle is often what stands between a cyclist and the trail.

Properly maintaining a bicycle is key to keeping it running smoothly. Jill DiMauro, previous owner of Proteus in College Park, tells us dirt is often the culprit for wearing down parts prematurely. The greenest thing you can do for your bike is clean it, she says. But once the parts are worn they need to be replaced. Sometimes it just makes more sense to buy a new bike rather than fix the old one.

Keith rescuing bikes from Shady Grove
But some environmentally conscious cyclists are concerned about adding to the waste stream. Rightfully so, these used bicycles are certainly not 'waste'. In addition to bikes received at bike shops BfW also saves bikes left at recycling facilities in the area. BfW repurposed close to 2,000 bikes left at the Shady Grove Waste Transfer Station last year alone.

Larry Black, owner Mt Airy Bikes, has been recycling for years and even won the Green Shop Award a few years back. He will patch and reuse a tube until it's no longer round! Then he will cut them and use them for rubber bands or bungees. Black is a huge supporter of the work we are doing at BfW. He has been overseas on numerous occasions, both for work and fun, and he can tell you how important the bicycle can be to a family overseas, IF you can stop him from running around the shop long enough.
Recycled tube handbag
We have several key volunteers who help support the bike shops working with BfW. They pick up bikes stashed in overcrowded stock rooms and recycle rubber and metal that cannot be reused.

One of the programs we support in Ghana, The Village Bicycle Project, has actually requested our old tubes, even the ones that need patched. Tubes can be used and reused and reused; however, here locally they are often used and tossed in the trash. The quality of rubber that we have in the US is often of a higher quality than what they receive new in Africa. Our old tubes,therefore, are preferred  to brand new ones.

Donating an old bike makes room for a new one AND makes the donor feel good to find a new owner for an old friend. We hope a brand new, properly tuned bike gets folks out riding more often.

All the shops we work with are supplied with receipts and can not only take a bike donation and financial donation to BfW but they can issue a receipt at the time of the donation. We appreciate all the work they do for us knowing it takes time out of their day and space out of their shops. That's just how important this program is to many of them.

Many shops also serve as collection points for our regular seasonal collections as well. Bikenetic, Bike Doctor, Race Pace, Capitol Hill Bikes, and REI have all sponsored collections in the past year. And many of them share our updates online to their customers. A list of all our current shop partners is available on our website.

And the Dick's Sporting Good Partnership was just plain amazingly awesome! See for yourself:

Friday, June 22, 2012

It Not Only Takes a Village But Also Changes One

Beneficiaries mentor each other
To single out one individual beneficiary of the Bikes for the Philippines program would be missing the bigger picture of how this program is changing not just one life but an entire community. This project may have been born from the idea of one man but its success is due in large part because of the passion of many. And it’s not just about giving bikes to students to get to school but rather creating hopes and dreams where there once were none.
Typical household of beneficiary
Bikes for Education, the Baclayon branch of BfP, was created quite simply to keep kids in school. Great care was taken to identify students who lived 3km or more from their schools and were in danger of dropping out. In addition to these students, previous students who had already dropped out were approached and offered the use of a donated bicycle for reenrolling in school.
Many families are grateful to Bikes for the Philippines and Bikes for the World for loaning their children bikes to get to and from school. The parents are thankful to have their kids home more to help with household chores. The teachers are seeing improvements in test scores by having the students arrive on time to class.
Girls learning how to change a flat tire
Bikes for Education is now part of the curriculum in the school system. Students are required, as part of the program, to learn basic bike maintenance including cleaning the bike and changing a flat tire. They are also taught bike safety and handling and must pass a written exam before receiving the bike.
Because the program was implemented in waves starting with the adult education program and working its way down through the grade system, older students were given the opportunity to mentor the younger students teaching them valuable lessons in teamwork and leadership.
Although students must sign a contract stating that the bikes may only be used to get to and from school, beneficiaries often take part in community rides on the weekends. This bonding experience allows older students to continue mentoring the younger students in bike handling and maintenance as is necessary.
Bol-anon Cyclists, a local bike club of adult cyclists, also often participates in these community rides with the students. The students gain confidence not only in their riding but also in life as they bond with this group of cyclists.
Beneficiaries taking donated shoes to orphange

Some of the Community rides are just outings in and among the rural roads of their small community of Baclayon. Others serve a bigger purpose. Bike beneficiaries have delivered food, donated TOMS shoes, and even donated kiddie bikes from BfP to the local orphanage.
The donation of these bikes and the meticulous implementation of this program have brought a new world to these students. So many doors have been opened, friendships made, and networks established.
Beneficiaries take part in Earth Hour

Another event the beneficiaries took part in last March was Earth Hour in the Philippines. Hundreds of millions of people, businesses, and governments globally unite each year to support the biggest environmental event known as Earth Hour.
The Philippines has earned bragging rights for being the biggest participant in this event four years running.  A record-breaking 1671 Filipino towns, cities, provinces, and municipalities turned off their lights for 60 minutes.
Kids in the Bikes for Education program are learning more in school, getting lessons in life, and becoming more aware of global issues around them thanks to BfP. 
Beneficiaries visit City Hall
Even the local Government is starting to get involved. With the influx of bikes to the barangay and puroks (like our cities and towns), the Local Government Unit (LGU) has started introducing bike laws and regulations to help keep everyone safe.
Alongside the Bol-anon Cyclists and BfP Director Joel Uichico and school officials, the bike beneficiaries rode to City Hall and sat in on the Bike Ordinance meeting. This is truly a community effort at work.
Beneficiaries at Rock111
As students finish school and earn their degrees, they are also awarded the bicycle that got them to that goal to use however they wish. Some graduates will go onto college but more will enter the workplace. The bicycle will continue to be of great benefit getting them to and from work just as it had to and from school.
Through the generosity and connections of BfP some graduates have already received career training doing such things as baking, hospitality, food preparation, and farming. Bike beneficiaries have been placed in these internship type programs upon completion of high school due to their involvement with Bikes for the Philippines.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Where There Is A Wheel, There IS A Way

The first BfP beneficiaries graduate!
Congratulations to the Fourth Year Students of Baclayon National High School. As students here in DC are wrapping things up for the summer, the first graduates from the Bikes for the Philippines program are already in work training programs.

The Philippine Navy helps deliver bikes
In 2011, Bikes for the World donated 556 used bicycles collected in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, to the Bikes for Education program of Bikes for the Philippines (BfP), a newly formed effort in the community of Baclayon, on the Filipino island of Bohol. The bikes were provided to enhance and preserve access to education for young people from low-income communities and living at a distance from school, who were at risk of dropping out—or who may have already abandoned school.

Back in 2004, Joel Uichico, a local businessman, noticed the children of Baclayon walking barefoot along rocky terrain just to get to school. He found that some of these children were walking up to 5km one way and some were dropping out of school because of the hardship this long trek was putting on the family. Something had to be done.

Because of the roads, cost of public transportation, and even the weather, he knew the only solution to this problem was getting these kids bicycles. He just wasn't sure how to go about doing that. He contacted his cousin Jo Grant located in the United States for help. Grant connected Joel with Bikes for the World and a new partnership was born.
Courtesy Lucy Neher

Here in the States we don't often think about the importance a bicycle has on a family. We often use them for recreation rather than transportation or work. Overseas a bicycle creates a means of life and often increases the amount of money coming into a household.

This past year in Takoma Park, however, Lucy Neher the Safe Routes to School Coordinator for the City of Takoma Park brought a bigger awareness to riding a bike to school. This first ever Bike to School Day brought 130 students and 30 parents out on their bikes May 9th. But think if you HAD to do this EVERY day monsoon or shine!

Joel Uichico BfP Director rides home with the kids
That's exactly what the kids of Baclayon have to do. The roads are steep, muddy, rocky, and often wet. In some cases students were walking an hour or more in order to get to school. They are often late and unable to enter the classrooms until the afternoon session begins. They were missing valuable lessons, tired, and distracted in the classroom.

Once the Bikes for Education program started teachers, principals, and guidance counselors saw an immediate shift in performance. Students were on time and eager to come to school.

BfW Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess
I rode the same roads these kids ride every day. They are no joke! For those of you in the DC area who mountain bike, some of these routes to school compare with the trails at Gambrill in Frederick. I was there in February, which is the 'dry' season and it rained every night. Every day we got up and rode muddy, mucky roads.

The kids all receive helmets and training, both book and hands on. There were times I questioned whether bikes were really better than walking on some of these roads. But then we would hit a two yard wide muck puddle and I knew I wouldn't want to walk through that in shoes or flip flops.

 Odoni Pestelos with Bicycle Escape water bottle
But the kids were amazing on their bikes. I was very impressed with their handling skills and the way they read and negotiated the rocks. Some of the newer riders walked the steep, rocky parts.

One thing I did notice was the need for gear. Yes, we will take your unwanted shorts and jerseys and see that they are delivered to our partners overseas. Tires, brakes, cables...these were all put under immense stress in these conditions and the kids are going to need replacement parts to keep these bikes running. We try to send parts along with the shipments, but we need funds to do this. You can donate to this specific program HERE or by indicating it under the Designation Code on our website donation form.

Even water bottles. Every now and again a bottle is left on a bike and sent overseas.  I was tickled when I was lost, (yes, I was separated from the group and wandering around with just a few guys in the remote mountains of Bohol) looked up, and saw this guy drinking out of a local (to me) water bottle! I was thrilled to see Ako Ang Simula (a Philippine TV show) with host Karen Davila, sponsor a drive to raise money to get all these kids water bottles.

Take a look at the program shown on ABS-CBN. Karen Davila introduces us to the program, the kids, and the revolution that is happening thanks to the bikes donated by Bikes for the World.