Bikes for the World

Monday, December 9, 2013

Earning Is Learning

Recycle Bicycle in Harrisburg invited Bikes for the World into their warehouse this past weekend to raid the parts room. We were like kids in a candy store feeding a sweet tooth!

Wheels, derailleurs, and brakes, oh my!

Recycle Bicycle is basically a free community run bike shop serving the community in Harrisburg, PA. Director and Founder Ross Willard started the non-profit about 15 years ago and the demand for bikes just keeps growing. Good thing the supply is also still strong.

Willard collects unwanted, used bikes and helps get them back on the streets and into the hands of people who need them to get to work, the market, or school. Sound familiar?

Anyone who needs a bike can get one at Recycle Bicycle...for a small price. Grease and sweat. The shop is open Mondays and Tuesdays and Willard is on hand, along with other volunteers, to mentor anyone needing a bike repair or bike...they just need to do the repairs themselves. Every bike that leaves the shop will have working brakes and every kid on a bike will have a free helmet. He'll even give you a lock to make sure it doesn't get stolen.

Courtesy Recycle Bicycle
Willard doesn't believe in giving away bicycles. As with most things in life a greater sense of pride and ownership comes with something that is earned. And this earn-a-bike program comes with a Wiki-filled supply of life lessons to boot.

What Willard does give away is valuable knowledge. Whether he is working with men who came to him through a halfway house looking for transportation to get to work or out in his mobile bike shop teaching kids how to fix a flat and adjust their brakes, the end result empowers a bike owner of any age.

Courtesy Recycle Bicycle
Recycle Bicycle does, however, partner up with half a dozen or more local groups around the holidays to provide bicycles to kids in need. The warehouse was a flurry of activity this weekend; it's all hands on deck this time of year.

Who are these generous elf mechanics shivering in the unheated warehouse refurbishing bikes for Willard's organization? Many of them earned bikes themselves and returned to use their learned mechanic skills to give back to the organization that reached out and helped them. Life lesson learned. If that isn't reward enough, those huge smiles on the faces of the new bike owners should be.

Even without the organized collections that Bikes for the World oversees for donations, Recycle Bicycle gets thousands of bikes every year.  Last year they distributed close to 1,000 bikes and repaired twice as many flats. Since their mission is to refurbish bikes, their volunteers are focused on stripping bikes for parts and rebuilding bikes that will find a new home in their community.

What this leaves them with is shelves full of parts; too many to ever be able to use. They then turn around and donate excess stock to organizations like Bikes for the World and Pedals for Progress who ship them overseas where they are put to good use refurbishing the bikes donated to organizations in Africa and Central America.

Wendy Powell, Yvette Hess, and Chad Bieber
The truth is, there are so many unused bikes in America that bike organizations who recycle these bikes back into their neighborhoods often end up with more bikes than they know what to do with. It may be not enough man hours, not enough warehouse space, not enough need, or not the right type of bike; whatever the reason, Bikes for the World is often called to relieve another organization of surplus bikes and/or parts.

Since our mission is to supply large quantities of bikes and parts to other organizations without focusing on the time demanding chore of fixing them up, we are able to absorb, store, and distribute tons of bike parts, which are in high demand in the countries where we donate used bikes. This year Bikes for the World is on target to donate over 13,000 bikes to recipient organizations across the globe. Much of the haul from Recycle Bicycle will be included in our next shipment going to Village Bicycle Project in Ghana.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Steering Us In The Right Direction: Rich Robinson

Rich Robinson and Keith Oberg
Bikes for the World is proud to welcome Rich Robinson to our esteemed board. And although we honored Rich back in 2010 as our volunteer of the year, it seems fitting to honor him again as our Featured Volunteer of December.

Rich began working with Bikes for the World in 2007, following his retirement from federal service as a counsel (lawyer) for the Veteran's Administration. Rich has played a central role in our expansion, a constant presence at loadings and collections.

In searching for photos of Rich for this honor we found many of him lying in front of a group of hard working volunteers. We are certain this is just a trademark pose after a loading, but it's also, no doubt, a well deserved rest in our opinion.

Rich is one of the 'select few' veterans physically capable of handling the infamous, read: strenuous, "third levels" of bike loading. Any time of year, any warehouse are likely to find Rich in his old tattered Bikes for the World t-shirt either throwing bikes or mentoring youth volunteers. He is truly irreplaceable.

Rich has been the lead on several loadings and has not only orchestrated activities inside 'the can' but also in the warehouse. He has lent his patience and skill to work with new volunteer crews during sometimes hectic loadings. He has also taken the time to stop and work one-on-one with individuals struggling with a menacing bike part.

He has worked with scouts on their Eagle projects and new collection managers unsure of the process of 'prepping' bikes at an event. You can often find him at one of our most successful collections, spring or fall, in Arlington, at the annual recycling event ECARE. He might be helping a donor, spinning a wrench, or driving a truck...guaranteed he's got a smile on his face.

When Rich isn't onsite steering BfW in the right direction, you might find him navigating the streets of DC in his Previa van. He regularly picks up bikes at The Bike Rack on Q Street as well as other businesses and apartment buildings as needed.

Building on his familiarity with and enthusiasm for our operations and mission, Rich is transitioning to making an even more valuable contribution to our institutional growth. Over the winter in 2012-13, he and wife Sue led our new board of directors and staff through a first-time strategic planning process. The result was the recent adoption of an ambitious strategic plan outlined with an action plan prepared by staff members. Joining the board is a logical step in pushing this process forward and helping us grow. Welcome aboard Rich!

Rich is an accomplished bike mechanic, maintaining and modifying an ample fleet of personal bikes. He is a long-time recreational cyclist, most recently completing tours with wife Sue and friends in Spain, Sardinia, and Turkey. Given Rich's familiarity with BfW, bikes, and international cycling (not to mention his recent study of Spanish), Bikes for the World would love to get him to tours in Central America, Africa, or the Philippines--to visit our partner programs!!
PS...send pictures.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Bikes Create Lifelong Skills at Goodwill

Goodwill Panama is a long time Bikes for the World supported project. To date we have donated over 16,000 bikes to this project alone.

Goodwill Panama trains and employs bike mechanics to reassemble and repair the bikes shipped from Bikes for the World. Many of these bikes are then sold in the Goodwill storefront and on occasion in fundraising activities in tourist areas in Panama City.

The money generated through these sales are used to help Goodwill Panama pay operational costs to run the program. Goodwill Panama provides work training and job opportunities to people with disabilities. The bike program in part supports the metal working shop, wheelchair repair, and of course bike mechanics.

Angel Anel Sanchez
My name is Angel Anel Sanchez. I am 15 years old and live in Nueva Libia, District of San Miguelito, Panama City, Panama. I live here with my mother, stepfather, a sister, and three brothers. 

I am currently not attending school, but hope to enter school next year. This past summer I started at Goodwill Panama. I had some knowledge on how to repair bicycles but at Goodwill I learned even more specific skills.

I got a bicycle from Bikes for the World and repaired it myself. I use the bike for transportation and to practice riding skills with my neighborhood friends. My stepfather has a welding workshop and I hope to learn welding skills next so that I can help in the workshop and bring more income into our home.

Joel Cordoba
My name is Joel Cordoba and I am 17 years old. I live in Los Andes #2, District of San Miguelito, Panama City, Panama. I live with my mother, grandmother, and two younger brothers.

I am currently in high school and hope to graduate in a couple years. I started at Goodwill Panama when I was 14. The first thing I learned there was how to repair bicycles. I used to work on my own, but it is now missing a chain ring. As soon as I find a replacement I will be able to ride again.

Goodwill Panama taught me about the tools and different parts of the bike. They then showed me how to repair bikes. I like passing on those skills to the younger people who have come to the Goodwill. I have also learned welding, wheelchair repair, and roof ventilator assembly while at Goodwill. Once I graduate high school I hope to enter INADEH (Human Development National Institute) where I will learn to be a professional chef.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Featured Volunteer: Phil Loar

Courtesy EyeCare International
A Featured Volunteer with Bikes for the World not only goes above and beyond in our organization but often lives and breathes the same values in life. We often find those special stand outs helping us reach our mission are also reaching lives in many other ways. Phil Loar is no exception. All those in favor, say EYE.

Phil has helped at collections and loadings over the years and he still brings a group of Jet Blue co-workers out for a day of service with us, the latest at this year's ECARE event in Arlington. But his efforts go far beyond just bikes.

The history does, in fact, begin at ECARE where he used to help manage the event at the turn of the century back when he worked for Arlington County. This is when he met Keith Oberg, who was then the local chapter's volunteer organizer of Pedals for Progress. The relationship between Keith and Phil continued over the years and the two brainstormed on several projects bringing change to ECARE and eventually El Salvador.

The actual year Phil and Keith met is up for discussion but it's safe to say it was over a dozen years ago. As mentioned, both Phil and Keith were working Arlington County's recycling day event...still one of our biggest collection points every year (twice a year to be exact!).

Phil would pull aside the aerosol solvents and penetrating fluids from the household hazardous materials dropped off and pass them over to Keith. So if you are wondering why it seems like we are always  at the end of a can of WD40, that's why; most of our cans are donated leftovers.

The two collaborated to expand ECARE, bringing in BfW partner Art for Humanity, for household good for Honduras and EyeCare International, an organization Phil had been involved in since 1995,  for eyeglasses for El Salvador.

Courtesy Eye Care International
Phil is now the Director of EyeCare International and leads the effort to bring eye glasses and care (including complex surgeries) to Salvadoran villages annually. The 2014 mission is based in the port of La Libertad. 2013 took them to Perquin where the surgical team performed close to 100 surgeries. Typically, over 5,000 patients will travel to these two week clinics in need of eye care.

Most of their necessary supplies, such as medical equipment and thousands of eyeglasses, sorted and examined in the US months before the mission, are shipped via airfreight. In 2012 Bikes for the World was shipping a container of bikes to El Salvador to our new partner CESTA. When Phil learned of this shipment, he and Keith coordinated efforts to ship about half of EyeCare International's supplies in our container, making use of some of the corners and crannies bike frames create. The boxes helped pack our container tight and the shared shipping helped save a ton on freight costs for EyeCare International.

Courtesy Koji Ukai
Phil also introduced the connection between Keith and Koji Ukai. Koji was a Peace Corps volunteer working in El Salvador in 2011 when he helped Phil as a translator during an EyeCare mission.

Koji was working on a water meter project to help make water more accessible to villagers in remote areas in El Salvador. But they were having trouble raising the money for the necessary meters.

"I contacted the Water and Sewer Division of Arlington County and asked if they had some old water meters still in good shape. They had plenty since they were replacing all their meters with a new type of meter. Keith offered to ship them to El Salvador and CESTA facilitated the customs process (aduana) in El Salvador. It turned out to be a great opportunity for everyone, " Phil Loar.

Courtesy CESTA bike project
BfW was honored to ship donated meters for this project, again, in boxes tightly tucked under our bikes' bottom brackets and heaved into the 'troughs' created by our packing method.

Phil continues to volunteer with Bikes for the World when his busy schedule allows, but his involvement with our organization is much bigger. He's helped stretch our reach beyond a youth bike project; we assisted in bringing water to villagers, and the gift of sight to Salvadorans daily.

Affordable transportation is one thing, the ability to see beautiful landscapes and the smiles of  loved ones: pricelss. Phil Loar, in our eyes, is a true champion.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bohol Strong

On October 15th, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the Philippine island of Bohol. Bohol is part of the island group in the Philippines known as the Visayas. Our partner, Bikes for the Philippines began its bikes for education program on this island and was due to deliver a second shipment of bikes to a new project in Maribojoc, Bohol.

Maribojoc is just one of about a dozen towns in Bohol that were badly affected by this quake. Many of the towns in desperate need of supplies are located along the western coast of Bohol. Our first bike project was launched in Baclayon which is southeast of the main city, Tagbliaran. Many of the reports we are receiving via facebook are from folks in this area that are trying to reach the more remote residents of Bohol who are struggling to receive the basic supplies they need, like rice and water.

80-90% of the houses in Maribojoc were destroyed either in the initial earthquake or in resulting aftershocks, which are still occurring two weeks later. A number of key bridges were also damaged in the October 15th earthquake. Some bridges were submerged and others so compromised only light vehicles (2 wheels) are allowed over them.

Most residents were left without water, electricity, and an ample supply of food. In the days following, Boholanos struggled to deliver supplies to those  cut off from neighboring towns, often resorting to using small boats to reach them.

Most houses in these remote areas of Bohol are made of concrete blocks and bamboo, neither of which are any match against the strong force of the earthquake that was initially centered in Maribojoc. Those living in houses that were still standing often still moved outside away from the structures that could be unsafe in the coming aftershocks.

Filipinos, especially from the lower island group of Mindanao, are all too familiar with natural disasters and live in fear of tsunamis given their proximity to the water. Many people ran for higher ground during this latest earthquake scare, which may have saved their lives as so many homes were destroyed. One family had gone to market when the quake hit and came home to find their home demolished.

 Elvie, who welcomed us to Baclayon National High School (BNHS) during our visit there last year, is the principal at BNHS, but lives in Maribojoc. She lost her home in this month's earthquake.

The house seen here is located in Catigbian. The owner is related to one of the main facilitators of our bikes for education program, Ma Lou. Ma Lou and her husband Rhowix escaped uninjured and with little to no damage to their own house in Tagbliaran City. They still spent a few nights outside in a tent afraid of damage that could still occur afterwards. Many aftershocks can often be more damaging than the original tremor.

 The biggest issue has been reaching some of the more remote areas of this region to ensure everyone has food and water. We have also received word that many of the much needed supplies are being sold at incredibly high prices given the demand and complexity of replenishing the supply.

Many people associated with Bikes for the Philippines including the director Joel Uichico, the owners of Peacock Garden, who helped pay for the initial shipment of bikes, and Nestor Petelos, president of Bohol Local Development Foundation (BLDF) and who we can't say enough about, have come together to collect and distribute supplies to their neighbors affected by the quake.

Nestor, who has dedicated his life to fighting poverty, lost his father right before the quake hit. Amid his own personal tragedy we saw a grave need swelling around him and sprung into action. He immediately organized his own relief mission and set out on motorbike and in some cases foot to reach residents cut off from main roads. Some of these people reported only seeing media crews who came through to report the widespread damage, no relief missions.

Nestor found communities pulling together helping each other out waiting patiently for supplies of rice and water, which they brought. They are now shifting gears to try to rebuild their precious towns. Some homeowners lost everything except what they were wearing and are struggling to find relief loans since they don't physically have a title in hand for their destroyed homes.

 Many historic churches were damaged after the initial tremor, including the centerpiece of Baclayon, Baclayon Church. The tower you can see here in the background during the first delivery of bikes two years ago collapsed.

The fate of these historic landmarks brought media attention to Bohol. The well known Chocolate Hills split in half, exposing the mystery beneath them. But it is the spirit of this island, the strength of its people, and the commitment to rebuild that is the true story of Bohol.

Our bike program is on hold, while efforts to bring this island back to what it was continues. School will resume in the upcoming weeks and eventually our bikes arriving in Maribojoc will continue to be distributed among the students who may need them now more than ever.

Special thanks to everyone reporting from Bohol on Facebook, where we borrowed images and stories for this posting. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Monday, October 7, 2013

¿Qué es una meta?

Courtesy Adelante
Bikes for the World is set to send a container of bikes to Fundacion Adelante in Honduras later this year. This shipment will be made possible in part thanks to the support of our newest corporate partner, Gildan Activewear , whose Branded Apparel division headquarters are based out of South Carolina.

Adelante works with the poorest individuals, mostly women, in rural Honduras to help improve the quality of life for them and their families. Adelante provides short term loans to help establish and sustain small businesses such as food stands and tortillas sales.

Adelante's model is very similar to the program Bikes for the World supports in Costa Rica under FINCA. Adelante is a micro-finance provider lending an average loan of between $25-50 which is paid back in full with interest.

Children in Atlantida Courtesy Adelante
The loans are largely meant to help move women out of poverty by empowering them to help themselves. Honduras is labeled as the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Many struggling rural Hondurans have many children, may be single mothers, have limited education, and are living hand to mouth. These are the potential clients Adelante reaches out to.

Adelante's main focus, in addition to immediately improving the quality of life for this population, is also to instill long term change within the community. Reaching children remains their main goal and they know the way to do that is through moms.

Marlena Courtesy Adelante
¿Qué es una meta? Every business venture needs a clear defined vision. Adelante works with potential borrowers to set up their own business models, stressing one major goal, una meta, from the start. Often, several people will band together to take out one loan, each needing to trust the other.

Adelante then instills the following values in the budding entrepreneurs: Unity, Discipline, Work, and Courage. All parties signing for the loan are jointly responsible for paying back the loan on time. The group meets regularly to report their progress.
Meet Marlena. Marlena is a single mother living in La Masica. She joined with several other women in the area to take out a loan with Adelante. Marlena's goal was to make and sell tortillas with corn she intended to buy with the money from the loan.

Marlena was able to buy a small portion of corn to start her business through this loan. She sells tortillas right out of her home, but as you can see, she uses a bike to get the corn home from the market.
Bikes are a valuable resource in rural Honduras where a majority of people walk to get to work and school. Bikes for the World works with a local group called Art for Humanity to bring small quantities of bikes into the country. What we learned from this effort is: it's often hard to get much needed resources into the country.

So when one of the marketing directors at Gildan,  a leading supplier of quality branded basic family apparel, including T-shirts, fleece, sports shirts, socks and underwear, approached us about bikes for Honduras we were all ears. Turns out Gildan is the largest private employer in Honduras. And Gildan had una meta, one goal, to establish major charitable partnerships with organizations whose mission is in line with Gildan's community involvement objectives. 

Turns out Gildan is also a socially responsible, environmentally conscious company. Just last year they recycled 87% of their waste company-wide. They also give back to their communities where they operate by funding a number of initiatives and promoting employee volunteering. They have provided scholarships and assisted in various school renovations in countries such as Haiti, Barbados, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua. And now they will be helping to provide bikes to families and workers in Honduras.

Courtesy Adelante
The vision: together Bikes for the World and Gildan could collect, store, and ship several hundred bikes to Adelante in Honduras by the end of the year. With Gildan's help and resources, Bikes for the World is now expanding south to make this initiative a go.

Keith Whitaker, that market director we just told you about, is leading the effort by first holding a collection at Gildan's Branded Apparel Division headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina. He is also talking with other groups in the community, hoping to organize several more bike collections in the coming months. 

Bikes collected in North and  South Carolina will be combined for this one goal, providing affordable transportation to rural Hondurans while supporting the micro-finance program currently in place. Once we have enough bikes in Carolina, Gildan will assist in loading them onto a returning container, typically heading back to Honduras empty. The bike shipment will be sent directly to the Caribbean coast, where Gildan is based and the efforts of Adelante are most greatly felt.

Donate your bikes in South Carolina October 21-25. Check our website for details.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Featured Volunteer: One Planet, One People, One Message

St Mary of Sorrows
This month Bikes for the World recognizes the effort of a congregation of volunteers for their dedication and hard work over the past two decades. St. Mary of Sorrows out of Fairfax has collected 2,183 bikes over the years and enlisted the help from countless volunteers, young and old.

It all began back in 1997 when a woman by the name of Muriel Grim approached Linda Hansen with an idea. Muriel, an environmentalist, enlisted the help of Linda, a cycling enthusiast, to collect bikes for a local recycling group known then as Pedals for Progress. They met with Keith Oberg, now Director of Bikes for the World, and the St. Mary of Sorrows annual bike collection was born.

"We sat on a truck bed discussing the concept of bicycle recycling, how a bike collection could be run, etc. They loved it and went off and organized a spring collection. I went with a 24' Budget truck and they filled it- with 265 bikes!!! We were blown away," recalls Oberg.

Linda, Brian, Earl, Jackie
What was unique about this collection right from the start was the reach across denominations. St. Mary's collection was not ONE church merely collecting bikes for an organization. Linda Hansen reached out to the faith community in the area and invited everyone to join hands in this global effort.

Over the years St. Mary of Sorrows has worked with Burke Presbyterian, Accotink Unitarian Universalist, Lord of Life Lutheran, and St. George's Methodist. The efforts of these faith communities coming together for one common cause made life simpler for Bikes for the World. Instead of five or six smaller collections spread across the county, this one combined collection point made for a more rewarding community service project and made it much simpler logistically for BfW. St. Peter's in the Woods does have one smaller collection point the same day, but it's right around the corner making for an easy pick up point.

Brian Keith and Earl Smith
After a 15 year run, Linda handed the reins over to Jackie Colonna who now manages the collection for Bikes for the World. Linda still remains heavily involved with the collection, however.

The transition was seamless not only because Jackie had been working on the collection for several years but because key volunteers like Brian Keith and Earl Smith have been working side by side with Linda from the early years.

"If Linda and Jackie are the cogs in this well oiled machine, Brian and Earl are the muscle behind it. From what I could see they 'own' the physical part of the collection and really get the job done. By outsmarting stuck pedals, mentoring youth and newer volunteers, and removing locks with the biggest bolt cutters I've ever seen," Yvette Hess, BfW Outreach Coordinator

Jackie has also taken on the responsibility of requesting tithing funds (with Brian's help) on behalf of Bikes for the World.  St. Mary's has a very large Parish Life and active Social Ministry. Securing space for any one event begins early in the year and you can find something going on on site almost every weekend. Likewise, financial donations range from housing projects, to feeding the hungry, or providing medical assistance to those in needs.

It truly is the work of all groups involved that keeps this drive so successful. But Linda says it best when she credits what's behind the effort. The mission of St. Mary's is ultimately to spread the word of the Gospel whether that be by word, or in this case by bike. She says the bike is a gift. Everyone involved is Spirit driven. We are driven to make this happen. It is the work of God, Linda Hansen.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Power of a Girl and Her Bike

Bikes in Honduras
This weekend a new film by Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour opens in the DC area. Wadjda tells the story of a girl of the same name who wants to buy a bicycle to race a boy in town.

Problem is girls don't ride bikes and they don't intermix with boys...not in Saudi Arabia. That goes for women too, but here we have a female filmmaker shooting the first full length film in a country that doesn't even have movie theaters. If that's not a persistent woman pursuing a dream we don't know what is!

In a recent interview with Haifaa Al Mansour she speaks of growing up in Saudi Arabia and feeling invisible. She was simply trying to find a voice and in doing so gave one to Wadjda, an 11 year old girl who just wants to ride a bike. But it's never just about the bike.

Sierra Leone courtesy Village Bicycle Project
Obstacles facing women and young girls is something we hear a lot from our partners overseas. In fact, many of our partners make it a priority to empower women specifically.

Village Bicycle Project (VBP) in Ghana and Sierra Leone target girls in their riding clinics and mechanic classes. When they first started working with girls they noticed that when they gave them bicycles the boys would steal the bikes from them.

To overcome this road block VBP first gave boys bikes and simply taught the girls how to ride. That way they could borrow their brothers bikes and continue honing the skill.

Another solution was the establishment of the Learn 2 Ride Bicycle Library in Sierra Leone. It works a lot like a regular library, loaning bikes to girls for the semester so they can get to and from school. VBP is then responsible for the maintenance of the bikes. They found that if the bikes were on loan, the male family members did not take over the bike.

Adamsay with loaned bike courtesy VBP
The big downside of the library model? VBP Director Dave Peckham expressed concern that unfortunately when the girls go on to college they are no longer riding bicycles.

Meg Watson, also of VBP, pointed out, "I can't feel too bad about this, as it means the girls we invested in are in college!!"

Bikes for the Philippines also loans bikes to students to help them stay in school, but upon graduation they earn the bike outright. They also had several girls complete the program and go on to college. No word on whether they took their bikes to school with them.

Zoila courtesy ChildFund
 Bikes for the World's newest partner in Mozambique is ChildFund International. ChildFund works in 31 countries and exists to help deprived, excluded and vulnerable children have the capacity to improve their lives and the opportunity to become young adults, parents and leaders who bring lasting change in their communities.

Many of their priorities are also focused on women and girls. They are empowering women through savings and loans and small businesses initiatives and by providing life skills for youth, particularly women.

“I advise my sisters and brothers that we have to think of our future. We can do many good things, but sometimes we think of marriage as a first option, but it is not the most important because we are still very young.” -Zoila, 15 

Hirabai Courtesy Jake Lyell Productions
Young girls have the added hardship of social expectations that keep them in the homes caring for younger siblings and contributing to house chores. Walking long distances over rural roads also brings danger and insecurity forcing many girls to drop out of school.

ChildFund's Dream Bikes program is bring bikes to students like Hirabai (far right) in India. In India we hear very similar stories to those coming from our education project in Bohol, Philippines.

Courtesy Jake Lyell Production
Many students live 3km or more from school and struggle to arrive on time every day. If they are late they are kept out of the morning classes, missing many lessons.

Many of these same obstacles exist for girls around the world. In Mozambique, ChildFund points to evidence that states girls whose families have a bicycle and use it for chores have 32% higher probability of staying in school than girls in rural areas who do not have a bicycle.

Bikes for the World sent an initial shipment to ChildFund Mozambique just this week. Bikes collected at recent collections with Ann Jackson and Friends, Pedal Pushers, and Falls Church Recycling, in addition to bikes we received this summer from DICK'S Sporting Goods were included in the shipment of 500 bikes.

Here, Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess hands a bike to Daniel Richard of the Pentagon Area Junior Petty Officers Association. The bike was donated by Margaret McEvoy of NW DC and is now on it's way to Mozambique.

In addition to the Sailors who helped finish the load we were joined by a corporate team building group from IBM who loaded over half the container the day before. We hope to hear great things coming from this project (and possibly more countries!) from ChildFund in the near future. Please follow our progress (and theirs) on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Fourth 'R': Riding

How exciting. Today we are talking about two new areas where Bikes for the World bikes are ending up in Africa. Cameroon and Mozambique. And to be even more specific we can say some of those bikes came from Severna Park and Arnold Maryland.

Two new education projects are receiving bikes through Bikes for the World. Many of the bikes included in the two shipments came from Pedal Pushers and Bike Doctor Arnold, both long time Bikes for the World shop supporters.

Courtesy ChildFund Mozambique
From Director Keith Oberg:

Keeping kids in school is one of the most productive investments that a society can make. Recognizing this premise, Bikes for the World provides students at risk of dropping out the means - in the form of a bicycle - to arrive at school on time, refreshed, and with time savings, thus enabling them to study more, do chores at home, and stay in school.

Providing bikes for education has happened to one degree or another in all of our supported projects going back to our start in 2005. Beginning 2011, however, we supported a 100% education project, Bikes for the Philippines.

Courtesy Wheels of Africa
Now, following on this project's initial success, we are looking for new opportunities to support education, and are particularly interested in Africa, where millions of children drop out of school, especially at the critical transition from village-based primary school to regional secondary schools. The loss of human potential is immense.

Two countries where we are exploring the role of bicycles in education are Cameroon and Mozambique. In Mozambique we will be working with ChildFund International to help distribute bikes to school children and teachers in central Mozambique. The first container is scheduled to be loaded at our Arlington warehouse September 14-15.

Courtesy BIG
Recently a small shipment of bikes, about 30, were sent to Cameroon, piggybacking on a shipment of books by a local Rotary club. The shipment of books and bikes was sponsored by the Cameroon Education Foundation in Kumbo, an English-speaking area in northwestern Cameroon close to the Nigerian border.

Almost all the bikes shipped this past spring have already been reconditioned and given to students in Kumbo. One such student is Alhaji Suleman, a student of GBHS who lives in Rogasah Kumbo.

Friend of Alhaji Suleman
"I will like to thank Bikes for the World for sending bikes to Cameroon for the first time. Like my friends I love bike because it will help me go to school easily.

"[The bike] will help my moment to school which you know is far from my home. Secondly the bike will reduced my transport cost. Thirdly the bike help me to travel in and out of Kumbo."

Alhaji Suleman, bike beneficiary, Kumbo Cameroon.