Bikes for the World

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Courtesy HasNa
Welcome to DC. In fact, welcome to America! Bikes for the World had the pleasure of hosting HasNa's VITA (Volunteer Initiative in Turkey & Armenia) team for an afternoon of bike prepping at our Arlington warehouse. VITA is comprised of six youths from Turkey and six youths from Armenia. During their two week stay in DC the Turkish-Armenian team went through conflict resolution training, team building exercises, participated in a number of local volunteer opportunities, and of course did some sightseeing.

HasNa exists to promote cross-cultural understanding and economic empowerment in culturally divided areas of the world. They bring together people of diverse backgrounds and encourage them to work together toward advancement and a peaceful co-existence. Sound familiar? Like the Cyprus Friendship Program we partner with every summer? HasNa started that program in 2009 working with Turkey and Cyprus youths. This year they added VITA and didn't hesitate to contact BfW.

"This is so much fun." That may have been Mehmet, Samo, or Esra, hard to tell. Everyone had a great time in the warehouse and everyone had fun. The group was there for about two hours and processed 60 bikes.

Most of them worked in teams of two helping each other figure out which bolt turned which part. They really seemed like one cohesive unit, not two separate groups from divided nations who came together at Dulles International a week ago.

But it wasn't all work for the VITA team. When asked who knew how to ride a bike at the beginning of our session, all the guys raised their hands. But like many of our beneficiaries in other countries, quite a few of the girls did not.

And if you've seen many of the pictures coming back from our beneficiaries overseas, you know it's rare to find someone on a bike without a huge smile on their face. At BfW we equate riding a bike with activities like walking and breathing...everyone should do it!

In fact the very first question one of the guys asked was, "Can I ride one of the bikes?" After all, there's something special about the freedom you feel riding a bike....even in a dark, dusty warehouse.

Bikes for the World collects bikes of all types and sizes. The gang found that out while trying to compact handlebars; it seemed like every single one was different from the last. And we thought about the girls who never rode a bike, here working with us to help provide bikes to other people and they never knew the joy of riding themselves.

So we pulled the Worksman Cycles tricycles out and called those girls over who said they had never been on a bike before. We simply said, "hop on and start pedaling." It was that simple.

And the simple phrase, "this is so much fun" took on a whole new meaning. So while half the group processed bikes, the other half pedaled some. Turning was a bit of a problem and we may have forgotten to mention the brakes, but everyone was having a blast, grinning ear to ear.

At BfW, we know the importance of a bicycle. It provides affordable transportation, brings people together, and generates a lifetime of joy.  While we appreciate the help this group brought to our program, we are most proud to send them home with their first riding experience here in our nation's capitol. Home of Life, Liberty, and Pedaling Happiness.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MLK WEEK of Service

Bikes for the World honored Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a series of community service events across the area. Taking advantage of our warmer warehouse in Arlington, this year we loaded in Virginia rather than our normal location at King Farm in Rockville.

This loading event took place on Saturday January 18th and Monday January 20th. We loaded over 400 bikes along with tons of parts, mostly from DC's Capital Bikeshare program. The container is heading to Panama's Goodwill program where trained mechanics will refurbish the donated bikes and sell them in the storefront. Money from the program supports the bike project as well as the program training disabled individuals in areas such as welding and metal working.

Swing Phi Swing Social Fellowship
Joining us on this two day event were volunteers from NOVA's Meetup Group, the students at Burgundy Farm Country Day School, and members of the Swing Phi Swing Social Fellowship.

A variety of activities marked this MLK Day opportunity. Volunteers focused on organizing the warehouse, sorting parts, processing bikes, taking in bikes, and loading the container for Panama.
CHO bike donation

The Community for Helping Others (CHO) in Fairfax arrived mid-day Saturday with a truck full of donated bikes. CHO joins forces with BfW partner shop Bikes@Vienna to collect bikes every winter to donate to local charities.

Dan Larkins, Director of CHO, collects and fixes bikes every year for beneficiaries in Fairfax that are hand picked by the county as in need of assistance. Larkins hand delivered the surplus to BfW this past weekend. And we have to mention the expert parking job by his driver as he squeezed their truck around our trailer to get to the dock.

Greg Houston Senior VP External Affairs Meridian
On Monday BfW participated in the Meridian International Center's first annual "Warm up DC" Event. Meridian hosted a series of simultaneous events to maximize the outpouring of volunteerism for the benefit of Martha's Table in DC with donated food and clothing for the disadvantaged.

Bikes for the World also benefited, not only from an unseasonably warm day, but from the donation of over 30 bikes from two locations. We were aided in this effort with labor from volunteers from George Washington University, DC Bike Party, Kasper's Cargos, and Burgundy Farm students who were hard at work processing donated bikes at our warehouse.

BfW would like to express special gratitude to Malina Keutel of Meridian for all of her hard work and outreach in support of this successful event.

Endorphin Fitness, Richmond VA
Boots, of Kasper's Cargos, has been working with BfW for several months helping us transport bikes to our warehouses. In fact, just last week, he delivered some of the bikes collected January 11th in Richmond at Endorphin Fitness.

Despite a cold, rainy collection day, Endorphin Fitness collected about 100 bikes for BfW, kicking off the 2014 season in style. This was a first time collection effort for Endorphin Fitness.

Some of the bikes coming from Richmond were included on the Panama trailer loaded during our MLK Day service event. The remaining bikes from Endorphin Fitness and the ones from Meridian will be loaded in February and donated to our Costa Rica partner, FINCA.

Collaborated with John Burg, BfW Board of Directors and Program Committee Chairman

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Featured Volunteers: We Honor Our Troops

Conor Mears troop 159
Ben O'Brien              Troop     170              100 Bikes
Joseph Gerard         
Troop       68               30  Bikes
Sean Clark                
Troop   1131               35  Bikes
Liam Brennan           
Troop   1352               76  Bikes
Conor Mears            
Troop     159               87  Bikes
John Finn                 
  Troop     472               70  Bikes
Patrick Franz             
Troop     945             151  Bikes
Bikes for the World relies on hundreds of collection managers a year to organize bike collections in their neighborhoods. These individuals recruit and train volunteers, seek out potential donors by advertising the event, and organize and manage the collection itself. BfW would like recognize the above list of seven scouts who organized and managed events for us in 2013 by completing their Eagle projects with BfW. Between them, these young men collected 549 bikes for individuals overseas who will use them to stay in school, generate more income for their families, or to run errands for the household.

John Finn troop 472
 The Eagle Project is one of the most important steps for scouts striving for the highest attainable rank in the Boy Scouts of America. There are over 2.3 million Eagle Scouts and they range from actors, astronauts, inventors, even President of the United States. They are reliable friends, husbands, fathers, and most importantly role models.

Eagle scouts are trained to survive under extreme conditions. They are skilled in cooking, life saving preparedness, and first aid. They have made significant contributions to their communities and are trained to lead and manage.

Eagle projects range from collecting books for schools, to building park benches, or refurbishing historic cemeteries. 
Conor Mears demonstrates how to compact a bike
At Bikes for the World, scouts complete their Eagle projects by organizing and running bikes collections for us. Scouts are responsible for managing a dynamic, unpredictable public event, publicity, and training and overseeing a volunteer workforce.

Many scouts cite time as the biggest obstacle in completing the project. They are often juggling school, activities, and other personal commitments while planning and organizing this event. Reaching out to reporters and recruiting volunteers have also been struggles for some scouts.

John Finn with donor Kyrksten
But mostly, scouts love working with Bikes for the World. We provide a service project in line with the guidelines laid out in the Eagle Scout project workbook. With a little bit work it's quite easy to hold a successful bike collection and the volunteer work breaking down bikes is a lot of fun.

Kyrksten (left) came out with his mom during a collection at St. Mary's in Rockville. She wanted him to be part of this Eagle project to hopefully inspire him to follow in John's footsteps. John took the time to work with Kyrksten personally as he helped prepare his own bike for shipping and even loaded it onto Nick's pickup.

John came to us after working as a volunteer for another Eagle project. He enjoyed it so much when it came time for his project he also picked BfW.
"Those bikes will go to people who will use them more than we do in their every day lives, like for school or work. I feel like I am making a difference to less fortunate people who deserve it," John Finn BSA troop 472.
Patrick Franz troop 945
 Becoming an Eagle Scout is often impressed on the next generation. To the right is a photo of three generations of Eagle Scouts (or soon to be). Far right is Patrick Franz of troop 945 with his dad (far left) and his grandfather in the middle.

Patrick completed his Eagle project with Bikes for the World in November 2013. With the help of All American Bicycle Center in Damascus, who helped reach donors via social media, Patrick collected over 150 bikes in one day.

Patrick actually started planning this collection last summer, but as mentioned earlier, struggled with time restraints. He decided to postpone an earlier scheduled collection to make sure he had time to devote to doing it right. And did he ever, collecting more bikes than almost all of our collections last year. Only Otterbein United Methodist in Hagerstown collected more and they've been doing this for more than a decade.

Eagle Scout Senthil Kannan troop 1983
Bikes for the World has worked with 63 scouts over the years working on their Eagle projects. Several of them have even done multiple collections with us.

Senthil Kannan of troop 1983 did a collection for us at REI in the fall of 2012. He was awarded the Eagle rank in 2013. Members of his troop have joined us individually to help us load bikes at our warehouse in 2013. Working with BfW is a bit infectious. It's part fun and part being able to reach across the globe and make an impact you can really see.

We at BfW are very proud to work with these young men and continue to be impressed with their success. Over the years our Eagle projects have brought in over 5,500 bikes and earned $45,000 in donations. These guys are making a huge impact in our program and an even bigger impact in the lives of people they've never met.