Bikes for the World

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.