Bikes for the World

Friday, January 18, 2013

Spares and Repairs

Ever wonder what happens to that container of bikes we load maybe at King Farm or Lorton?  You may have seen a lot of pictures of kids on bikes, bikes being used for work and school, bikes in shops supporting other non profit organizations overseas....but what about the actual containers?

Every single thing we ship overseas gets reused. It may be the bike, the OSB board we stack the bikes on, the rubber tubes and tires we use to level the rows, or YES, even the container itself.

Bikes for the World's partner Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN) has roots in Namibia and South Africa. BfW supports both programs.

BEN empowers local entrepreneurs with shipments of used bicycles and parts from organizations such as Bikes for the World and Working Bikes for example.

BEN not only supplies remote areas of Africa with bikes but also trains new bike mechanics, and offer business and computer classes to ensure new bike businesses flourish even in those remote areas of Africa.

This is what they call a Bicycle Empowerment Centre. Straight from the BEN website:

Through a partnership with a volunteer network, Bicycles for Humanity, BEN Namibia developed a new bicycle distribution model, the Bicycle Empowerment Centre (BEC). A BEC is a shipping container loaded with around 300 bicycles, spare parts and tools. BECs are delivered to the community based organisations that BEN Namibia works with and are run as bicycle workshops.

Each BEC uses its income from initial bicycle sales and servicing to ensure that it will be able to operate in the future, paying mechanics' wages, buying new spare parts, and covering the costs of resupply of bicycles. A portion of the bicycles are given to outreach volunteers or other beneficiaries like children walking to school, while a share of profits are used to fund community social initiatives.

 This isn't a 'set it and forget it' operation. BEN is a continual resource for these shop owners and mechanics. If a tricky derailleur comes in the shop, a mechanic, such as Mr. Bean (photo left), might go to the BEN training center to tap the knowledge of BEN's lead mechanic.

And the money raised through these bike shops isn't just a For Profit effort. Much of the proceeds go back into the shop to buy parts and bikes, but they also fund new entrepreneurial projects such as a concrete business that was started from BEC funds. 

Profits also support other non-profit efforts throughout Africa. The Tsumeb Bike shop supports the Tsumeb Hope Centre which feeds between 100-200 children daily.

Cycle 4 Life BEC in Mariental brings money in to feed children in the local Catholic AIDS Action orphan support programme.

As you can see a donated bike from a Northern Virginia garage can change more than just one life overseas. When we say your donations are changing entire communities, we mean it!