Bikes for the World

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

B.I.G. Shipment

Steve Frantzich and Keith Oberg
That is a bit of an overstatement so to speak. This B.I.G. shipment of bikes is actually rather S.M.A.L.L. in Bikes for the World speak.

Early in March we had the opportunity to stash about 50 bikes in a container bound for Cameroon. This is on the western side of Africa somewhat close to Ghana. Cameroon is a country BfW has not yet sent bikes to and we were interested in learning more about the process.

We partnered with a local non-profit out of Annapolis called B.I.G.- Books for International Goodwill which is sponsored by the Parole Rotary. Steve Frantzich, seen above, is the Director of Books for International Goodwill. They left us just enough room to throw in a few dozen bikes with their book shipment to Cameroon.

School kids in Philippines need books AND bikes.
"Spreading Literacy by Keeping Books Alive." It's a simple motto held by B.I.G. They accept used book donations and recycle them for productive use by those who need books for schools and libraries to improve literacy in developing communities around the world.

Sound familiar? We often find other local non-profits with missions aligned with our own at Bikes for the World where we recycle used bikes and help put them in the hands of those who need them to improve their lives getting to work or school. If there is an opportunity for our two organizations to work together to bring much needed resources to developing countries we do what we can.

In fact, this is the second time we partnered with the Parole Rotary shipping books, that's BOOKS not just bikes, to Africa. In 2006 we shared a container, half with bikes half with books, with B.I.G. In that shipment Bikes for the World donated 240 bikes to The Gambia.

This time those donated bikes will be received by Chin Idirisu Medorni the CEO of the Cameroon Education Foundation. From Chin:
"I am really happy about your willingness to donate to us up to 50 bikes. This is great! Since I mostly work in rural Cameroon my plan was to donate this bikes to rural school where access to motor vehicles is not easy and at times poor roads and it is not even easy to use foot paths. Most of the North west region of Cameroon is hilly mixed with undulating landscapes and such bikes that have gears are good for this reason.
We shall use the very truck transporting the books from Douala to Kumbo to transport the bikes."
Bikes for the World will learn from this project how easy it is to get bikes into the country, how easily it is to get bikes to NW Cameroons who need them, how appropriate the bike are, and what spare parts or differing bikes they may need in the future.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Featured Volunteer: Freestylin'

"One man's trash that's another man's come up..." Okay, fair enough, maybe all of our followers aren't up to speed on the latest rap lyrics, don't know Macklemore, and have never heard of Thrift Shop or 'poppin tags'...but surely everyone can appreciate a good find when you see one.

Paul Schulwitz
And I won't pretend to know much about vintage BMX bikes, but thankfully here at Bikes for the World we have Paul Schulwitz for that! This guy has been with us since 2007, helping at collections, loading bikes, and in his spare time, rescuing valuable BMX frames that are discarded or unknowingly donated to BfW.

We often get bikes donated to us that have been in garages or sheds for decades. These bikes may have been forgotten toys or valued best friends of years past that are left in parents' and grown kids' valuable storage spaces. They almost always come with stories. And donors often find it hard to part with the physical reminder of a very dear memory.
This classic Schwinn came to us last spring, the owner shedding tears as she handed it over to us. She shared the story of how her father taught her how to ride, and how she had recently lost him. She had been holding on to his old bike as well as her childhood one unable to shake the emotional tie.

We hear many stories like this one. Donors often find the strength to part with these bikes, but certainly not the memories, when they hear about Bikes for the World. Knowing that these bikes can bring similar memories to another family or better yet, improve their lives often is the final nudge they need to 'let go'.

Part of our mission is to make quality used bicycles and parts affordable and available to lower income people and select institutions in developing countries to enhance their lives and livelihoods through better transport.

In select cases, it makes more sense to sell a valuable bike here locally and use the money to help us meet that mission, rather than send a single bike overseas.

For example, this old Schwinn, we called Larry's bike (because of the attached plate) was donated by a WUSA employee at a collection there in 2011. Although kids bikes can help get a child to school overseas, quite frankly we get a ton of them. They are often used as 'filler' in our containers to help pack spaces tight and keep the valuable mountain bikes from shifting too much in transport and getting damaged.
Since Paul was volunteering with us both at collections and loadings, he was starting to find a lot of cool bikes in the stacks of donations we got in. Bikes that would better the organization more if they were sold here instead of shipped overseas.

"Before I got involved finds like these were being shipped to third world regions. All of these bikes have either been donated or we pulled them from a landfill transfer station metal scrap pile in Maryland,"
Paul Schulwitz.

It may not seem like much and look like even less to you or me, but some of these bikes, if you have the right one can go for thousands of dollars to a BMX collector. It could be the frame itself, the brake pads, crank arms, or even the overlooked foam pad across the handlebar.

The fact is, our Director Keith Oberg wasn't much of a BMXer in his day, so he had no idea what these gems passing through his fingers were worth.

Once Paul got involved, these bikes got set aside for him to inspect and later sell. All of the money raised through these sales goes back into Bikes for the World to help support our mission. Paul has sold hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of vintage BMX 'stuff' for BfW. Instead of providing enjoyment for ONE child, these sales have in turn helped HUNDREDS.

If you are into these cool vintage finds you should totally check out a recent posting by Paul. In fact, you should check it out may bring back some childhood memories. Vintage BMX finds in the BfW warehouse.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Kennedy Center Sends Bikes To Africa

Volunteers from Sasha Bruce help load Kona bike
We recently told you about a unique bike donation coming in through partner bike shop Race Pace in Columbia. 10 brand new Kona Africa bikes were purchased and donated by a part time mechanic; these bikes are currently on their way to partner program Wheels of Africa in Kenya.

We also told you this wasn't the first time this donor generously donated new bikes. A few years ago Norm donated several one speed versions of this Africa Bike. You can read more about this year's donation on our blog OR watch the video.

Muwonge Jalia
Muwonge Jalia received one of those bikes Norm donated last time. She is a widow with 5 children. She is also a member of the Nakyesa Widows and AIDS patients farmers groups in the Kayunga district.

Most of the farmers in the Kayunga district borrow Jalia's bicycle to travel to the markets, health centers, and for personal errands. The proud owners of these new bikes shipped by Bikes for the World refused to remove the cardboard packing from the frames in an effort to keep them unscratched and protected even as they started using them for work.

 If you watched the video you heard Norm ask about other people donating NEW bikes and saw another one that came in through Spokes Etc in Virginia.

Then we remembered another unique donation that came in a couple years ago after the maximum India program at the Kennedy Center.

28 bikes were donated to BfW from the Kennedy Center
We were contacted by the Kennedy Center as their international festival featuring India was winding down. They had 28 sturdy Indian made bicycles on display during this festival that celebrated Indian culture and art forms. They were interested in donating all the bikes to Bikes for the World.

There were some adult tricycles and bicycles with heavy duty racks you see to the left. Here the bikes are waiting at our Lorton facility before being shipped to Uganda fall 2011.

Fred Musunda
Well late last year we got this story back from Uganda about Fred Musunda, the owner of a brand new Atlas bike (indeed, the same one you may have seen on display at the Kennedy Center!)

In Uganda, milk plays an important role in food security and the fight against malnutrition.  Fred Musunda collects milk from rural farmers in Matugga (about 15km from the city) and transports it to the urban markets and individual households.

Farmers in rural areas have turned to collectors with bicycles to transport the milk and ghee (butter) they produce. Fred bought a bicycle through the Prisoners Support Organisation to help him deliver fresh milk and ghee to his customers.
Fred bought a new Atlas from PSO

Unfortunately his Avon bicycle (seen above) was worn out, limiting how much milk he could transport to his customers. After visiting the PSO Bike Center Fred was able to purchase this brand new Atlas bike (seen left) with a rack big enough to handle the 40 litre containers of milk he had become accustomed to carrying.

He noted that since it was a rainy season, the milk production was high and yet the roads in Matugga were impassable and only bicycle riders could access farmers. Bicycles play a big role in the milk collection industry since most roads out of town are not easily accessible by motor-vehicles. There are about 35 milk collectors in this area who sell locally produced raw milk and dairy products to theurban markets/trading centers. 

This Atlas bike is one of the very same bikes seen above at Lorton and donated by the Kennedy Center in 2011.  And although Keith, Phil, Yvette, or Nick (all of whom helped pick up (literally) these bikes from DC and made sure they made it in the container for Uganda) will tell you these bikes weighed a ton, Fred Musunda will tell you it's perfect! He is the envy of other milk collectors in the area who all want a similar bike to his. He also noted that his weekly profits doubled after purchasing his new bike.