Bikes for the World

Thursday, February 28, 2013

How The Bike Is Helping People SEE Better In El Salvador

CESTA is a partner in El Salvador bringing more than just bikes

We told you back in September about some of the other unique items we have included in our bike shipments. Computers, crutches, braillers for the blind... Well last fall we were at it again.

Through BfW partner, Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA) American groups doing similar work as BfW (helping change lives) were able to ship in supplies to carry out their missions in El Salvador. We are proud to be able to support these causes by slipping in boxes of supplies between our bikes, which actually helps hold our bike cargo in place and minimizes damage to wheels and derailleurs.
Courtesy: EyeCare International El Salvador

Last time it was water meters from Arlington County that were being installed to help bring water to villagers in Los Limones. In an update on our blog we brought you photos of the actual meters we shipped in place in the initial installation.

In late October of 2012, Bikes for the World shipped again to CESTA a container of bikes that came (in part) from long time supporter collections from Beth El Congregation and Knights of Columbus in Damascus.

Included in that shipment were supplies destined for the EyeCare International El Salvador. Program Coordinator Phil Loar is a long time supporter/volunteer of Bikes for the World and approached BfW to help with the delivery. BfW shipped over 57 boxes for the mission, which was just completed in Perquin.

EyeCare International worker examines patient
From their blog: EyeCare International provides vision care to the underserved population of El Salvador. It was founded by Dr. William Brinker in 1995 to bring ophthalmology, optometry, and optical services to areas of El Salvador outside of metropolitan centers. Typically, 5,000-7,000 patients travel to the annual two-week clinic to have their vision checked. They may receive eyeglasses or undergo surgery for cataracts or pterygium removal. Approximately 20 artificial eyes are fitted each year. Each patient is asked to donate one dollar (if they can afford it). However, there are no fees for eyeglasses, surgery, or medications.

Courtesy: EyeCare International El Salvador
From Phil Loar:
We were able to see more patients than we anticipated and still get to dinner on time. Our surgical team performed 92 operations and finished before dark every day except the first. But the real measure of success is the fact that our friends in Morazán can now see better to care for their families and to enjoy the lovely landscapes and beautiful people they encounter every day.
One pair of glasses may not change the whole world but it will change that person's world forever.

You can follow their progress on facebook.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Norm Jacob, Kevin Dolan, and Keith Oberg
Cheers! We had a donor give us TEN brand NEW Kona Africa bikes around Christmastime last year and we want everyone to know his name. So when you wander into Race Pace Bicycles in Columbia this season we want you to yell, "Norm" like you just walked into that famous bar in Boston.

This isn't the first time Norm Jacob donated a fleet of new bicycles to Bikes for the World. A few years back he bought quite a few one speed Kona Africa Bikes that we shipped to Uganda.

Then late last year, we got word from Race Pace that he was at it again! This time he bought 10 3-speed Africa Bikes that were included in our latest shipment to Kenya.

But we wanted to know more about our "Secret Santa" so we went up to Race Pace to meet him in person. Turns out Norm is a part time mechanic there.
Norm shared with us how that happened, "I used to be in public service. I'd just like to do something completely different. And this is completely different."

When Norm retired he was looking around for something to do (besides ride his bike) and an employee at Race Pace suggested he take their Parks Tool course. After he finished up the guy approached him and offered him a job.

"I thought, let's give this a shot. That was seven or eight years ago."

That would be about right. Norm told us the reason he originally took the job at Race Pace was because he had heard about Bikes for the World and he wanted to get involved with the organization. "I got to thinking that was a pretty good thing to do," says Norm. So he wanted to hone his skills to help BfW.

"We often had to wrestle, literally, with them in the back 'til they got picked up." He is talking about our bike donations that come in through Race Pace. All Race Pace locations serve as an intake point for us. In fact, before opening their new shop, they even let us park a trailer at their Ellicott City location.

 When Norm found out we ship the bikes overseas 'as is' to help generate employment there, he decided to make an even bigger impact. So he decided to use an employee discount to buy new bikes to donate.
New bike donation from Donald Mahley
"I certainly hope I'm not the only one who's donated new bikes," Norm humbly questioned.

And after poking around the warehouse, we managed to find this brand new Trek (left) that came in through Spokes Etc., also around the holidays.

All of these new bikes were recently loaded by Sasha Bruce Youthwork, who came out to Lorton for a service project. This shipment will be sent to BfW partner Wheels of Africa in Kenya.

Several regular volunteers as well as some from Fairfax Volunteers for Change came out during the two-day load to help us process many bikes that came in from area bike shops.

After a year-end holiday sales offer, Spokes Etc, our largest local bike retailer partner, added another 50 or more bikes to our supply. Many of these bikes were included in this 522 bike shipment (quite a few of them 'like new'). We are confident that our Kenyan partner will LOVE this container.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

We're Getting A Face Lift!

Yes, we have been promising this for a long time, but it's almost here. In fact you should visit the old site one last time in case you want to say goodbye.

By this time next week we feel confident in saying THE NEW long awaited website WILL BE LAUNCHED!

So what's NEW? Where do we start? Above you can see what the new home page will look like. We heard you wanted more pictures, so we are giving you photos right off the bat! Looks like the top of our blog, right? Exactly. Except on the website, these pictures (#1 above) will actually slide open when you hover over them. And if you click on them they will open a landing page inviting you to come even further into this new and improved website.

This is just another way to start your journey into our new website. We will still have a navigation bar at the top of the page, but with even more options! Once you hover over one of these boxes (#2 above) a drop down menu will open with even more boxes below, all leading to a unique related page.

But wait, the Collection Schedule button at the top is missing! No worries, it's still right there under Donate A Bike. And if you miss the button on the top just click on Donate A Bike...TADA, right there is your collection schedule as easy as you found it before.

Many of the same pages will appear on this new site, but more organized and with a better Bikes for the World look. We hope if you are looking to volunteer or organize your own collection you'll quickly and easily find what you need to get started. And all along the way to be exact. At the bottom of the Organize A Collection tab you will find Resources that will help you prepare for your collection.

And under Who We Benefit you'll find great information on where your bikes end up.Under International Partners are programs are highlighted and under Success Stories actual beneficiaries tell you how your old bike changed their lives. This is a great place to help tell YOUR story. So when you contact a reporter who wants to cover your collection, you can point them right to this tab on our website for actual stories from overseas.

Back on the Home Page...the bottom of the page has a map showing where we have shipped our bikes over the past eight years. If you click on it you will be directed to an interactive Google map that also highlights our global partners.

If you aren't already following us on Social Media, look at the top of our site (#3 above) It's super easy to start! We have quick informative updates on facebook and twitter. Have you seen our photo albums on Picasa? Videos on YouTube? I can tell you already read our blog! Check out the Share Bar (#4 above) on the left of the site. This will follow you no matter where you go. And if you see something you like: SHARE IT! Tell your friends about us, invite them to join us!

And last, but certainly not least...the right side of the home page. First, a bike counter letting you know how many bikes we've shipped to date. Under that you'll find our latest News & Events. Find out about loadings, collections, events, what's new on the blog...right here on our new home page. And if you want updates in your inbox, we've got that too! Just sign up to receive our newsletter and you'll get a quick synopsis monthly.

So there you go....your introduction to the new and improved website. Due out any day now. We'll give you a head's up on facebook when we launch or you can keep checking to see when we hit the switch. But I promise you, we are hours away...

And we couldn't have done it without our amazing web team Confluence, who made all the pretty stuff happen.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Will Run For Bike Parts

Bus service for students of Maribojoc

The latest project of the Bikes for Education branch of Bikes for the Philippines will bring bikes to these students of Maribojoc. This school district is in a neighboring town from the pilot project that brought donated bikes from the United States to the island of Bohol in the Philippines. Bikes were loaned to students who lived over 3km from school to help keep them enrolled in school.

Bolandrina family loading bikes at Lorton
Bikes for the World sent a second container of over 500 bikes to Bikes for the Philippines. This shipment has just arrived in Manila. These bikes will be going to the students of Maribojoc. We loaded this container in November with the help of a Massachusetts (yes way up there) volunteer, Joe Bolandrina. Joe packed up his car with his family and loaded a rack full of donated bikes then drove all the way to Lorton Virginia to help pack this container for the Philippines.

Joe also held a collection last year and is doing another one this year through a similar organization in the Boston area called Bikes Not Bombs. His daughter Lily did a school project on this effort and has already started collecting bikes for similar projects.

As with our first container, the bikes will be unloaded and stored in a warehouse on the main island where Manila is located. The Philippine Army is preparing to help unload the bikes and look them over before transporting them to the island of Bohol.

Bike beneficiaries run to raise money for spare parts
This past weekend three bike recipients and Director Joel Uichico ran in the Condura Skyway Marathon to help raise money for spare parts to keep their donated bikes rolling.

Results from the Condura Skyway Marathon:
1. Nino Rex placed 241 with a gun time of 1:12:57 and a chip time of 50:55
2. Joseph placed 242 with a gun time of 1:12:58 and a chip time of 50:55
3. Lovezyn placed 2284 with a gun time of 1:59:46 and a chip time of 1:37:43
All three completed the 10 K.
 Joel completed the 21K.

Congratulation to all the runners in the Condura Skyway Marathon!
I bet you all are ready for those bikes now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Success Stories: Odison Robles Panama


Come Christmastime, things get busy at partner Goodwill Panama, and especially in the bicycle mechanic training and employment program. The season’s demands — more bikes in operating condition, ready to be sold to workers and families flush with cash from year-end bonuses — keep senior apprentice and apprentice supervisor Odison Robles under sustained pressure. His supervisory responsibilities multiply with the work load, mentoring as many as eight apprentice mechanics (compared to an average of five at any one time during the other eleven months of the year).

The surge in sales at this time happens for a combination of reasons. Christmas, of course, is a time in Christian cultures when families purchase gifts, and a bicycle is a prized possession for anyone, young or old, whether for work, recreation or transportation to school. Year-end is when salaried workers also receive a “thirteenth month” payment from employers, facilitating the purchase of a big-ticket item like a bicycle. Vacations and the dry, temperate weather in Panama during this season provide the time and ideal conditions for bicycle-riding.

Goodwill Panama has earned a reputation for offering reliable bicycles at affordable prices. These are sold in its Panama City store — where it trains salespeople — or throughout the country via a partnership with the Rotary club network and with small merchants. Almost ten percent of Goodwill Panama’s annual budget for job training and employment services, job placement, and post-employment is supported through the sale of bicycles. This covers scholarships and salaries — such as for Odison and his peers.

Odison has come a long way. Growing up in Alcalde Diaz, Villa Victoria — a rural zone on the outskirts of Panama City where, according to Goodwill Panama director Angel Diaz, “the conditions of life aren’t the best” — Odison had dropped out of school, despite his parents’ pleas, and showed no interest in school or doing anything constructive with his life. Desperate because of the boy’s general rebelliousness, his parents brought the 14-year old to Goodwill Panama.

There they registered Odison in the Goodwill Vocational Education Center, where young people with special needs receive vocational education in the metal-working shop in the morning, complemented with primary and secondary education in the afternoon. Odison began in the bike shop, where he absorbed the basic technical skills and developed self-confidence, self-discipline, and the ability to work with others. After less than two years, repairing bicycles and little by little picking up additional metal-working and (equally important) interpersonal skills, he became supervisor of the apprentices.

Now 17, Odison as supervisor plays a central role in the orientation and training of youths entering Goodwill Panama’s workshop apprentice and career development program. New entrants begin with the repair of bicycles, becoming familiar with the components of bicycles and the simple hand tools required to assemble and dis-assemble them. They develop skills at following directions, working as part of a team, and taking on responsibility. Depending upon their interests and qualifications, apprentices move on to related areas, including wheelchair repair and soldering/metal-working putting together ornamental grill work for security doors, gates, and fences. Graduates can be placed by Goodwill with private firms through a four-month apprenticeship, establish their own businesses, or seek employment on their own. Over the last 18 months, Odison has mentored 20 apprentices.

With his achievements in diverse areas of metal working, and confidence growing with the responsibility of mentoring younger youth, Odison will soon move on. When he turns 18, he will be eligible for the corporate placement program. One day, perhaps, he could own his own metal-working business.

 Odison continues to live with his mother and two brothers in Alcalde Diaz. He reports regularly fixing his siblings’ bikes and those of neighbors, making himself a respected figure in the community, and is happy with his daily labor within the Goodwill workshop. Thanks to Bikes for the World, Goodwill Panama, and individuals like Odison, there are some 15,000 individuals in Panama making use of the power of the bicycle to improve their lives.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Featured Volunteer: Nick Hein

2013 National Day of Service
Every year Bikes for the World likes to participate in Martin Luther King Day festivities by starting the year out with a container loading of bikes for one of our overseas partners. 2013 was no different, except given the added Inauguration event on Monday, we chose to load over the weekend instead. For this National Day of Service over two dozen volunteers came out to King Farm to help us load our first container of the year, destination: FINCA Costa Rica.

Jennifer Privell and Nick delivering bikes from Positive Spin
Then event also gave us the opportunity to say goodbye to one of our--oh, let's just say our BIGGEST WVA--supporters Nick Hein. Nick has been the Director of Morgantown WVA's Positive Spin. He is, however, as sandals in wintertime may suggest, moving on to the West Coast to pursue other interests.

Nick and Positive Spin have supported Bikes for the World for years, and before that donated bikes to our sister organization in Chicago, Working Bikes. Nick Hein can remember our Nick Colombo when he was at Working Bikes before coming to BfW.

Positive Spin offers classes in bicycle maintenance and repair, mentors teens in bicycle repair (and earning a bike through their efforts), solicits donations of unwanted bicycles, and reconditions and sells used bikes to the community at low prices. Morgantown is home to the University of West Virginia, and students, faculty, and other staff comprise a large part of the Positive Spin volunteer base and market for reconditioned bikes.

A common problem of community bike projects such as Positive Spin is that their donors and volunteers produce more bikes and spare parts than can be used (although the bikes tend to be of department-store quality and marginal condition, requiring too much skilled labor and time to make usable).

Nick Hein delivers bikes from Positive Spin to BfW in 2011
Beginning in 2008 (or so), Positive Spin has donated surplus bikes and spare parts meeting Bikes for the World standards. To get them from Morgantown to our storage site in Rockville MD, we have relied on a combination of transport arrangements -- volunteers with the Cumberland (MD) Rotary Club, and other various BfW volunteers with trucks (and generous hearts). Most recently, BfW shared the costs of truck rental to bring 80+ bikes and many boxes of parts (all loaded by Nick and Jennifer) to this National Day of Service loading.

We want to say thank you and good luck to Nick Hein for all his support over the years. We also want to recognize his valuable contribution to the cycling community of Morgantown. We hope that Positive Spin will continue to thrive in this community even after Nick moves on to explore other adventures out west.