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.

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