Bikes for the World

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How Can I Help?

What's the connection between Lincoln, Nebraska and Baclayon National High School in Bohol, Philippines? The answer is next month's Featured Volunteer!

Meet Carlton Styron. Back in December of 2012 Carlton sent us an email:

Hello, My Name is Carlton Styron and I reside in Lincoln, Nebraska. As I will be moving soon to the Philippines, I had the notion to find a worthy and helpful cause to participate in while there, and found your website. I am a huge bike lover and mechanic. Do you need help with anything in the Philippines?

 It was that simple question in nothing more than an introductory email to Bikes for the World that got the wheel turning. We put Carlton in touch with Bikes for the Philippines Director Joel Uichico who was at that moment awaiting the arrival of a second container of bikes from Bikes for the World.

Once bikes arrive in Manila, Joel faces the daunting task of not just unloading five hundred plus bikes, but reassembling and fixing almost all of them. Donated bikes are discarded for a reason, most often, they need repaired. Here's where Carlton comes in.

Recently, a dedicated crew of Pinoy volunteers gathered together to turn these bikes from Bikes for the World back into valuable, usable bikes that will help keep kids in school in remote areas of the Philippines. These bikes were donated by individuals in the Northern Virginia area as well as from the national retail chain DICK'S Sporting Goods.

Carlton was one of the many volunteers who assessed and fixed  the bikes that would be donated to the students in Bohol and Cebu. He quickly noticed the need for spare parts, new and used, when trying to give these old bikes a new life. 

"First we go through all the bikes, set the handle bars, install the pedals and do minor repairs. An assessment is taken of each bike to know of any other problems, then the more experienced mechanics take care of the rest. It works smooth as silk," Carlton Styron

This blue bike you see him with here came to us through a special donor from New Jersey who goes by the name Plong-Plong. Plong is originally from the neighboring town where our bikes were first donated. He knows the terrain well that these students navigate just to get to school. He contacted Bikes for the World desperately wanting to help. The handful of bikes he donated are among this shipment being sent to the second school district in Bohol.

Recently Carlton had the opportunity to travel to the island of Bohol and meet the kids he was helping in that warehouse in Manila. Putting a face to a frame really puts this kind of work in perspective.

Leila Ungab is one of the new beneficiaries in the Bikes for the Philippines education program. Carlton is the mechanic who revived her donated bike that will help get her to and from school quickly and safely.

While in Baclayon, Carlton met with the teachers behind the success of this program. He saw first-hand how valuable these bikes are to the student residents who need them to get to school on time. He also got share some of his bike knowledge with the young budding mechanics. All students who receive a bike are required to know certain maintenance techniques to keep the bike in good standing.

Carlton Styron is an individual example of the global reach of this program. Carlton's wife was from the Philippines and he wanted to experience Philippine life. He also loved bikes and wanted to give something back during his stay. He reached out to Bikes for the World to make a difference in his new home in the Philippines before he even left Nebraska. We introduced him to the perfect meld: Bikes for the Philippines.

When Carlton began with this organization what he found  was a well organized program with an amazing leader. "Joel is the perfect person to head this up. He has a big heart for the children," Carlton recently reported to us via email. What he also found, was a rewarding volunteer experience that was making a difference in a community half a world away from his previous home.

You can help support this Bikes for Education initiative by supporting Bikes for the World right here at home. You can donate a bike, your time, or financially to help bring a bike to someone who will use it to make a positive impact on his or her life. Bike accessories and new and used parts are a big part of what keeps this program sustainable. Your donation will help us provide used bikes, training, or tools to mechanics in need. DONATE TODAY.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bikes for Education

Last month Bikes for the World's partner Bikes for the Philippines signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Education in the Philippines.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro said bike donations from the Bikes for the Philippines Foundation Inc. will provide suitable means of transportation for poor but deserving individuals and help teach them valuable skills making this a two pronged benefit.

"The students have a hard time going to school due to lack of suitable transportation and they are at high risk of dropping out," Luistro said. “The bikes will not only help them get to school but also provides a way to teach road safety and environmentalism.”

The importance of this project, dubbed Bikes for Education, is clear and simple: keeping kids in school. Throughout the Philippines the drop rate among students is a persistent problem. According to DepEd data, the drop-out rate among high school students in Bohol was high at 5.63 percent in 2011.

This pilot bike project brought about 150 bikes to students in Bohol with another 200 about to be delivered to a neighboring school district. Recently another 50 were delivered to a school on the island of Cebu. Every single bike represents one step closer to graduation for its new owner.

Many students are responsible for chores around the house before and after school. Beneficiaries in the bike program all live 3km or more from school and many of them walk this distance to and from school every day.

The school day runs from 8 to 5 and if the kids are late they have to sit out until the afternoon session, missing valuable lessons. The roads to school are also steep and rough and students are often walking home in the dark. After completing family chores there is little time for homework.

On the rough, sometimes crowded roads in these remote towns you might find an overcrowded bus with students hanging off the roof. Jeepneys and habel-habels (seen left) can be found on the shared roads these kids are traveling to and from school.

Although motorized transportation is available in these areas, the fares are often too expensive. The rides can also be quite dangerous. Walking six miles round trip to school is often a burden some families cannot endure and students are forced to drop out.

Beneficiaries in the program are required to wear helmets and pass extensive written and hands on tests regarding road and bike safety and maintenance.

Students are encouraged to mentor younger students and often take part in community activities from feeding orphans, to spreading cycling advocacy in town, to standing up for environmental causes like Earth Hour.

Bikes for the Philippines director Joel Uichico said they are looking into expanding the project to cover more areas. With the partnership forged between Bikes for the Philippines and Department of Education this is a hope and dream likely to come true.

"I have asked the field offices to evaluate their areas to see if their students can be beneficiaries as well," Luistro said. This partnership is like adding hundreds of feet to the ground, people who are in place already who can provide feedback in many different areas of the Philippines.

The success of the original pilot program was in large part thanks to the combined efforts of the educational system of Baclayon. The teachers, principals, and school administrators made this effort work. The program itself was incorporated into the school curriculum. Teachers had first hand knowledge of how the bikes were making a difference in the classroom from kids coming to school with completed homework to participating in class with increased energy and enthusiasm.

This project was put together like a classroom assignment and carried out by those who know that best. Now, working hand and hand with the Department of Education when trying to reach a country made of islands, Bikes for the Philippines is poised to reach a greater number of students in many different districts, in turn, hopefully, lowering the drop out rate significantly across the country.

The Department of Education rates a school's performance (as well as an individual teacher's) based on three indicators: National Achievement Test results, liquidation of expenses, and the drop-out rate. Lowering the national drop-out rate has been a concern for DepEd and Bikes for the Philippines. Together they hope to keep kids in school, give them an education, and build stronger communities in all areas of the Philippines.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Featured Volunteer: What Moves Us?

Jim Mitchell. Bikes for the World's Featured Volunteer of August is a valuable part of what keeps us moving. And he's inspiring too!

We met Jim a decade ago when his church was collecting bikes to be sent overseas. Back then he was just a volunteer with the Wesley Freedom United Methodist Church and St. Joseph Catholic Community annual collection. For the last six years he's been managing it.

"They have had huge collections together! I've filled up 26' trucks, one time I came in a 16' and had to leave some (bikes) and come back later in the week." Keith Oberg, Director BfW

Wesley Freedom collections have brought in bikes that could fill over three containers the last decade. Jim assisted previous manager Lou Rimbach before Lou moved to the Eastern Shore and Jim took over. Between the two of them they have collected over 1300 bikes for Bikes for the World, easily netting over 100 bikes every spring.

"I believe that it is important that we give back whenever possible, globally and locally. I love cycling and I think that's why BfW is a good fit for me.  I especially enjoy helping with the loading of containers (except 3rd tiers)." Jim Mitchell

Jim has been involved with Bikes for the World at every level. He appreciates the importance of a bicycle and what it can do to help change lives. He also understands the importance of volunteering as an individual and a community.

Besides mentoring volunteers at the Wesley Freedom UMC collection, Jim has regularly been involved with our volunteer night at King Farm. He claims it's mostly processing bikes and 'socializing', but he's also joined us for loadings. Jim has shared his insights and skills with many younger volunteers coming through King Farm. His role as mentor is valued in the organization.

Jim has also helped us at events such as the Stop, Swap, and Save in Westminster where he helps spread the excitement about Bikes for the World. And when he's not wielding a pedal wrench you might find him with a loaded truck and trailer, picking up bikes at Race Pace Bicycles.

Jim recently retired from Howard County Public Schools where he was serving as the Supervisor of Transportation. His professional logistics and management expertise have certainly helped organize our Baltimore area pick ups.

But where those skills are put to even better use, is with Jim's other passion,the South Carroll Food Pantry. Here Jim helps coordinate the distribution of over 8,000 lbs of food each month. The Pantry has also donated paper products, such as diapers, household products, and even some children's books.
We appreciate the work Jim does with Bikes for the World, whether he is mentoring young people at King Farm, picking up bikes from shops in Howard County, or having fun at a DICK'S Sporting Goods event. It's all an important part of what we do.

But we also salute the work he does outside BfW. In addition to his critical role in Carroll County feeding people in need, Jim has also been involved with storm disaster relief  for the past two decades. After Katrina hit in 2005, Jim spent eight months in Mississippi helping victims rebuild their lives and communities.

Jim stands by his word, he IS giving back globally AND locally.