Bikes for the World

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.

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