Bikes for the World

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.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A True Community Service Project

Ann Jackson and Friends
Ann Jackson has been collecting bikes for a year or two or ten, we've almost lost count. Jackson, an avid cyclist, hosts a Bikes for the World bike collection every year or two at local Severna Park bike shop, and BfW shop partner, Pedal Pushers.

Ann Jackson
Over the years, the Ann Jackson and Friends bike collections have collected over 500 bikes for individuals in need across the globe.

“I just like what they do to help the people overseas. A lot of people have bicycles they don’t use and this keeps them out of a landfill. I think it’s a good thing to do," Ann Jackson

Peter Berty removes pedals at collection
Ann Jackson and Friends could almost just as easily be changed to and Family. Jackson enlists the help of her siblings and in-laws to make this collection spin. Unfortunately, married names throw off the accuracy of The Jackson Five as a collection sponsor name.

You may have seen this guy to the right as far away as Falls Church Virginia, which ironically hosted their recycling event the same day this year. Peter and Ellen Berty, brother-in-law and sister to Ann, are also long time Bikes for the World volunteers, helping at collections, events, and even behind the scenes.

 But what really makes this collection successful is the support of the community as a whole. Rod Reddish, owner of Pedal Pushers has been sharing space with Jackson to help promote this collection over the years. His location, right next to the B&A multi-use trail is a great place to spread the word about Bikes for the World. Pedal Pushers is a long time supporter of Bikes for the World.

When asked if the collection boosts sales at all, Reddish replied, "It's not about making money, it's about getting people a ride." Whether it's getting
someone an upgraded bike and out on the neighborhood trail or donating a bike to someone in need overseas, this is a great program.

The manager of The Big Bean, the coffee shop a few doors down, agrees. The Big Bean often supports the community by offering free cups of coffee for local events. They donated coupons to anyone who donated a bike at the Ann Jackson and Friends collection.

And it's not just family helping at the collection itself either. This community service project embraces the community. Whether it's a young person from an environmental group, an employee of the bike shop, or one time a bike donor who wanted to stay and help...there's a wrench for everyone!

Several donors this past weekend even saw the collection advertised on a neighborhood listserv...that Jackson knew nothing about. Some saw the banner in front of Pedal Pushers. Others picked up a card at The Big Bean.In the end Ann Jackson and Friends collected and processed 84 bikes to kick off our fall season. Many of these bikes will likely go out in the next shipment being loaded September 14 and 15 and arriving in Mozambique several months from now.