Bikes for the World

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ride Locally, Shop Locally, Donate Locally

Courtesy West Springfield Rotary
This year the annual bike collection with the West Springfield Rotary and Irving Middle School will take place on April 5th from 10am-2pm. Again the location will be at Irving Middle School in Springfield VA.

Last year the Rotary collected almost 100 bikes at this collection. About a dozen of them were turned around and donated locally through the non-profit group Kristi's Christmas who serves underprivileged students in Fairfax County.
This local donation of used bikes is made possible by the collective efforts of many groups involved. The West Springfield Rotary coordinated the entire process and The Bike Lane of Springfield really made it possible.

As you can imagine, bikes donated to Bikes for the World are not always in rideable condition when we receive them. Regardless, any bike donated would need to be looked over by a trained mechanic before it's donated to another youth.

The Bike Lane essentially donates their mechanics to this cause. All the bikes donated to Kristi's Christmas through the West Springfield Rotary and Bikes for the World are looked over by The Bike Lane before they are donated. The Rotary club donates the cost of any parts needed to get the bikes up and running again.

This effort will be repeating again in 2014. This year, Bikes for the World has agreed to donate bikes we currently have on hand to give The Bike Lane a jump on fixing them up before they get overly busy this spring.

Interstate Van Lines, located in Springfield, has agreed to join the cause by donating temporary storage of the bikes until they are distributed by Kristi's Christmas in May.

Irving Middle School students and the West Springfield Rotary will also be collecting bikes on our behalf on April 5, 2014.

Last year Kristi's Christmas donated 13 bikes to area Fairfax County students in need. The non-profit works with Fairfax teachers and principals to identify families for this program. Jose (above) is one of the beneficiaries. The Williams Family also received one bike that will be shared among three brothers:
"My boys were so excited to see a bike in the house. They have all come up with a schedule on who will learn to ride it first. We are all so very thankful."
Read more about the program or better yet, donate a bike to support the West Springfield Rotary April 5th.You can also contact Philip Dondes for more information on how to donate a bike. 703.200.4426

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Featured Volunteer: Mechanics For a Day...Or Two

Burgundy students
This month Bikes for the World recognizes Burgundy Farm Country Day School in Alexandria Virginia.

Bikes for the World has worked with over 70 schools since 2005. Every year we work with a couple dozen schools who host bike collections with us. About a dozen more come out to our warehouse to help us load bikes that will be shipped overseas.

Burgundy is one of the very few schools who has worked with us on collections AND loadings, giving their students the whole picture of what we do at Bikes for the World.

Keith loading up bikes
Over the years Burgundy has consistently done a bike collection with us every fall. In 2013 they made a goal to collect 50 bikes during their collection. They usually collect around 35 annually.

They stunned Director Keith Oberg, who showed up in his van (that holds about 35 bikes) when the school exceeded their goal and collected almost double their normal amount. Good thing Keith brought the trailer! They managed to load all 60 bikes collected that day by throwing some on top of the van.

Burgundy at 2013 collection
"This is an out-of-the-box recycling initiative that also helps foster among our students an appreciation for cultural and social values, sharing an interesting perspective about diverse needs and cultures," said Doug Fishman, Sustainability Coordinator at Burgundy and Bikes for the World collection manager.

"So many of us who volunteer at the collection take for granted our own access to transportation, or even the fact that we're able to collect so many bicycles. We're giving a second life to old bikes, simultaneously improving lives for people in need."

Burgundy at 2014 loading
Not too many students join us for both a collection and loading. It's a big commitment from a school to provide both of these community service projects for their students, especially when one of them is at our warehouse.

There's actually a pretty good chance some of the bikes they collected last November ended up
in the container we loaded with them in January. We can't always promise where a bike is going to end up except when we are carrying it onto the truck! So these guys know those bikes are heading to Panama.

"Bikes for the World looks forward to working with Burgundy every year. The kids are really into it; they like the mechanics of it as well as what's behind it. The students found these bikes for us and now they see where they are going. That's pretty cool," said Yvette Hess, Bikes for the World Outreach Coordinator.

"Participating in this program allows children to connect personally to a cause. We hope they see volunteering is fun. But we love showing them the difference they are making for kids just like them miles (and oceans) away."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Giving Life To Your Old Bike

The last edition of our three part series on our beneficiaries in Kenya will focus on mechanics. Wheels of Africa teamed up with BfW partner BEN Namibia (BENN) to borrow their very successful BEC (Bicycle Empowerment Centre) model to set up shops that are accessible to everyone.

When bikes arrive in the container, they are in various stages of disrepair. They may merely need the pedals reattached, they will likely need a derailleur adjustment, but they might require a lot more maintenance, which is why they were donated in the first place.
In order for a bike organization to be sustainable and ultimately be chosen as a Bikes for the World partner, there has to be a plan in place for not only repairing the bicycles donated by us, but a method for maintaining them in the future.

BENN's BEC model is ideal because it trains and employs skilled local talent to become successful bike shop owners and mechanics. It also makes use of the bikes and parts donated by groups like Bikes for the World.

BEC owner Michael Otieno
BENN sent their most skilled mechanics to Kenya to help Wheels of Africa get this program started. Michael Otieno was trained in the Wheels of Africa program modeled after the original BECs of Namibia.

Mike receives bikes and spare parts through WOA. He will not only reassemble your old bikes but he will make sure they keep running for years to come. He also underwent specific entrepreneurial business training through the program to ensure his bike shop business remains successful.

Ousman Okoth
Ousman Okoth is a recent 'graduate' of the program and just established his own BEC. Both Mike and Ousman are training other youths to be mechanics and as well as successful BEC owners.

The BECs are situated in the suburbs of Nairobi. They are able to reach more remote villagers who are in need of affordable transportation to get to and from the city center for work, school, or health services. Mike and Ousman will not only get bikes into deserving hands but make sure those bikes keep working. They have apprenticeships that will help turn more Kenyans into skilled mechanics serving the communities where they live.

Bikes for the World is making an effort to increase the amount of spare parts we collect so that we are able to increase the value of our bike shipments by adding parts into every bit of space possible.

Recent partnerships with DC's Capital Bikeshare and NY's Citi Bike have brought cases of used parts, tubes, and tires into our warehouse that are in turn being shipped to support remote bike shops around the world.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bikes For Community Health Workers in Africa

Yesterday we told you about how bikes donated in the DC area are helping a youth project in the Mathare Valley, Africa. Today we will introduce you to Kijiji Cha Upendo in Kibera where our donated bikes are helping bring affordable health care to AIDS patients in Kenya.

Through a unique partnership with Wheels of Africa (WOA) and the Tour d'Afrique Foundation (TDA) several organizations in Kenya are receiving bikes indirectly from Bikes for the World. This series will bring you stories from several of them as well as actual bike beneficiaries.

Courtesy Kijiji Cha Upendo
Kijiji Cha Upendo (KCU) is a community based organization in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Kenya and Africa. Kijiji Cha Upendo complements the efforts of families already providing physical and emotional support, to orphans and other vulnerable children, infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

The organization provides workshops, loans, food, education, support and empowerment to families affected by HIV/AIDS. They also help educate the community about HIV/AIDS spreading a greater acceptance of those suffering from the disease.

Mary Syombua
Some beneficiaries who received bikes through Wheels of Africa are using them to help transport goods to be sold. This saves time and money and helps benefit the family as a whole.

"I used to transport green groceries from the market place to my small kiosk, deep in the slum. I would hire a cart from the stage to my kiosk for Kshs 50. These days, I use my bike from the stage to my kiosk. "
                                      Mary Syombua

Agrippina Andati
 Others, use the bike to help care for an ailing household member. The one thing KCU beneficiaries all have in common is the transformational change that has been brought about by the bike. Some of these beneficiaries are infected with HIV/AIDS; all are all guardians to either orphans or vulnerable children.

Agrippina Andati uses her bike to pick up medicine for a sick relative. The money saved by using the bicycle allows her to better care for her relative. Agrippina does not know how to ride a bike, but her children use it to run these errands for her.

                  Ol Kalau Hospital Health Workers
Another health related project supported by WOA (and BfW) is in Ol Kalau, the central region of Kenya. Alongside the Peace Corp, Wheels of Africa dedicated ten bicycles to Ol Kalau District Hospital.
Bikes are used by these community health workers (left) to ensure that residents of Ol Kalau receive medication and treatment in collaboration with the district hospital and Peace Corps.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Wheels d'Afrique

Bikes for the World has over a dozen beneficiary partners worldwide. Each one of these programs we support is unique in how the bikes are helping their communities. We support a micro-finance project, school projects, community led bike shops, welding training programs, the list goes on and on.

In Kenya, we work with an organization known as Wheels of Africa. This project alone supports health related organizations, youth projects focused on keeping students in school, and locally owned and operated bike shops.

Some of the bikes donated by Bikes for the World are used in the partnership between Wheels of Africa (WOA) and TDA Global Cycling (TDA). TDA is a unique cycling experience that takes place in various locations across the globe. Cycling clients sign up for bike tours that travel through many struggling communities. TDA has made it their mission to give back to these communities by donating a bicycle for every rider on the tour.

The very areas the TDA pedals through are the same areas the Foundation strives to change. Bikes are typically donated to health care and community development workers.

In Kenya one such group is Maji Mazuri International. Maji Mazuri  was founded in 1984 to help women and children in the Mathare Valley.  Through WOA (and BfW) TDA donated bikes to the Mathare Youth Project last year. This project empowers young people from Mathare by training them in different technical skills.

Many students are sent to colleges far from their homes making the time and financial burdens of commuting too hard on their families. By providing a bicycle to these students, the Mathare Youth Project is killing two birds with one bike, so to speak.

"It (the bike) has brought about responsibility to me, to take care of it. It has cut on my fares and the distance I used to walk and travel. My younger brother also uses it to school,"
George Oluoch Okoth, Mathare Youth Chairperson.

The Tour d'Afrique bike tours are generating awareness and change to everyone touched by the ride.

"The cornerstone of social and economic development is awareness. The persons who participated in the Mathare Valley Tour have undoubtedly found themselves changed. While the living conditions that they witnessed in the slum are, to say the least, daunting, it is our hope that they were also touched by the hope and dignity that the residents of Mathare Valley gain from participation in the Micro Finance, Headstart and Youth Group projects. As the representatives of Tour d’Afrique met various members of the aforementioned projects, they can rest assured that that extension of interest and friendship further encourages those members," Wanjiku Kironyo, the Director of Maji Mazuri International in Nairobi, Kenya

...We will continue this series of change in Kenya through Bikes for the World partner Wheels of Africa over the next week on our blog. We will introduce another school group, medical projects, and a bike shop owner all benefiting from bikes donated through the TDA Foundation...