Bikes for the World

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bohol Beneficiary Update

Bikes for the Philippines (BfP) is expanding its Bikes for Education project to include a second school district, in Maribojoc, on the island of Bohol. After about a six month delay the training of the beneficiaries will begin next week.

In November 2012, Bikes for the World sent a second container of donated bikes to Manila to support adding this second school district, Pagnituan National High School. The pilot effort, in neighboring Baclayon, has been a huge success. When the program started in 2011-2012 the drop out rate for Baclayon was 4.5%; today that rate is 1.67%. Nationally the rate for the 2011-2012 school year was 7.8%.

Our donated bikes were met in Manila by a large volunteer network mobilized by Bikes for the Philippines. The central warehouse allows bikes to be refurbished by these volunteers before they are shipped to the smaller island of Bohol.

In September 2013, the Philippine Navy delivered 190 refurbished bicycles and spare parts to two projects, a smaller school effort on the island of Cebu and the larger school district, Pagnituan National High School in Bohol. The Bohol bikes were to be stored in Baclayon at Peacock Garden Resort where the bikes were secure and under cover, but not completely out of the weather pattern soon to come.

On October 15, 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the region, rocking Maribojoc which was situated right on top of the North Bohol Fault Line, where the earthquake originated. Access to Maribojoc was immediately cut off from the capital when the main bridge leading into the village collapsed. Supplies would be ferried into town by tiny shipping boats.

All schools in the district suffered tremendous structural damage. Outdoor classrooms were set up under makeshift tents and villagers were living in shelters or compromised structures. Three weeks later the Super Typhoon Haiyan hit. The eye of the storm swung north of Bohol, devastating the island of Leyte. Much of Bohol's water and electric were generated from this island and wiped out in the typhoon.

With the kids unable to attend school and the community shaken from two major natural disasters back to back, it was clear the bike program would need to be suspended for the time being. BfP shifted efforts to rebuilding Maribojoc and began delivering things like rice and books to the struggling community.

April 2014. Currently, BfP  is poised to begin training beneficiaries  first thing next month (April). After spending some time in the elements, our bikes sitting at Peacock Gardens could use a little TLC maintenance, which will be completed by two students beneficiaries from our pilot program in Baclayon.

Jake Palijado
The Mayor of Maribojoc and the Department of Education worked together to designate two classrooms in Pagnituan that will serve as a warehouse and makeshift repair shop. Once they graduate next month, Jake Palijado and Hermongenes Pocot will assess and repair the bikes to be loaned to the next round of beneficiaries in Maribojoc. These two graduates will also serve as mentors and role models to the new beneficiaries in Pagnituan.

Meanwhile, Bikes for the Philippines is already looking at where the next container of bikes will be placed. Marikina, a school district on the island of Luzon (where Manila is located) and another on the island of Cebu are currently being evaluated. Storage, volunteer hands, and transportation continue to be a consideration especially given the complications that arose in Bohol during the latest round of storms, not to mention the ship transport and the exposure to salt water and sea air the bikes experienced.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Promoting Local Business

Rita Putebil Courtesy Jason Finch
Continuing our series on Village Bicycle Project (VBP) today we focus on the advanced mechanic class. Last year we introduced you to Rita Putebil, an 18 year old student who participated in the advanced class in Laabissi.

During training she asked questions and volunteered for every demonstration. She impressed the training team so much they stayed an extra day to show her further skills like pulling cranks and adjusting hub assemblies. VBP gifted her a set of tools and she is now maintaining the bikes in Laabissi.

Newly trained mechanics in Biama
Just last month VBP returned to the field traveling to three villages in the Brong-Ahafo Region. With the support of Re~Cycle VBP carried with them 260 bikes and 800 tools that would be distributed among participants in their workshops.

During the one-day workshops new bike owners learn every day maintenance and simple skills like how to fix a flat. People who have taken this class in the past are invited back for a more advanced mechanics class when the team returns. Some participants received their bikes over four years ago.

Local supply shop
Many local bike parts and supplies are very expensive, some hard to come by. Tubes and tires made for the American market are often of a higher quality rubber that they are preferred even used over the new tubes available in Africa.

This is why your donated parts, tubes, and tires are so important to Bikes for the World. We pass those on, packing them under cranks and between frames when we ship a container to Africa. VBP then ferries them across Ghana and into the local markets where your donated bikes end up.

New bike owners are taught only the basic upkeep of a bike in the one-day workshop. VBP trainers then pass along the local mechanic's contact information and encourage bike owners to visit them for the more extensive repairs. Promoting local business and mechanics is a high priority in the program.

Biama mechanic Maxwell
In fact during the recent visit to Biama, VBP trainers sought out the known local mechanic to invite him to the classes. They found Maxwell who was eager to participate.

Maxwell helped the trainers in class and then received further training that will help him in his business. He learned how to extract cranks, break chains, and adjust hub assemblies, just like Rita from last year. VBP also gifted him with a set of tools and promoted his business throughout the classes.

Biama, by the way, is known as 'the place where nobody will go'. Village Bicycle Project went, they taught, they conquered the complex workings of the bicycle and passed that knowledge on to keep your old bike rolling and in good shape. In case you were wondering, the 'rust' color in the photo above in not actual rust, it's Ghanaian dirt.

Monday, March 10, 2014

2 Wheels, 1 Bike


Bikes for the World has been working with the long established Village Bicycle Project (VBP) in Ghana, and now Sierra Leone, since we began shipping bikes in 2005.  Since then, we have donated 13,101 bikes to the project. One of our containers shipped late last year just arrived in Accra, Ghana and another is on the way right now. Since 2005 we have donated 28 containers to VBP-Ghana and another 3 to VBP-Sierra Leone.

Once bikes come into VBP's central warehouse location in Accra they are offloaded and reloaded onto trucks that will deliver them to remote villages throughout Ghana. VBP does more than just deliver used bikes, they offer beginner and advanced workshops to new and old bike owners in rural Africa.

This past February they loaded 260 bikes to be delivered among three villages in Ghana's Brong-Ahafo Region, about a day's drive from the warehouse in Accra. Bodaa, Biama, and Asiri all received bikes and training through VBP during this trip.

In Bodaa, 60 people participated in the one-day workshop offered by VBP. Because of their enrollment in the program, participants were able to purchase a bicycle at a significantly discounted price.

In Biama, 40 bikes went to a mix of farmers, teachers, and students. VBP trainers turned each one of these new owners into a mini-repairer, showing them basic bike maintenance and simple repair, like how to remove and replace a front tire and repair a puncture to the tube.

Evelyn Amoah
In the more populated area of Asiri, VBP distributed 160 bikes to new owners. These owners received their bikes along with this one day training class. They were also taught how to ride a bike if they didn't already know. Many young girls do not know how to ride, making this aspect of the workshop essential.VBP knows the importance of empowering a woman with a bike, like new owner Evelyn Amoah who will use her new bike to help transport goods to market from the family farm.

VBP also offers a more in depth advanced mechanics class as part of this rural outreach. Each student learns the more complex skills involved in bike mechanics from a VBP trainer. They are then able to purchase discounted bike tools that will enable them to help maintain the bikes in the community. Some participants in the advanced mechanic class in Bodaa actually received their bikes through the VBP one-day four years ago. Check back tomorrow for more on the mechanics trained in this project...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Women are the Hub of the Community

Bikes for the World partner Village Bicycle Project joined forces with Re~Cycle and The Bicycle Factory to celebrate International Women's Day in a unique and yet ordinary way. Put simply, they do what they do best, delivered bikes to remote villages in Ghana. This latest shipment helped empower many new female bike owners.

Village Bicycle Project (VBP) has been focused on getting bikes into the hands of women and young girls for several years now. To quote VBP, "the truth is, women run Ghana; they run the home, the compound, the neighborhood, the community, and so on..."

Many of our partners overseas have recognized the power of women within a family and community. Whether they are running errands, increasing product to market, or serving as the family school bus, women are using the bicycle to change their world for the better.

VBP kicked off February with a special delivery of bikes to the Suhum-Kraboa-Coaltar District. Actually, this was a shipment of brand new bikes to the students of Otwebediadua School through Cadbury's Bicycle Factory project. VBP taught these students how to ride and care for their new bikes.

In all 20  new bikes were delivered to the school. VBP introduced bikes to 15 students, 11 of them had never been on a bike before. VBP trainers, through their Learn2Ride program, taught these students basic riding skills as well as showing them how to care for their new bikes.

Asamoah Dorcas
In Ghana, women such as Asamoah Dorcas, may use a bicycle to help transport goods to market. Asamoah had been head loading heavy loads, which can cause spine damage. The bicycle will allow her to carry even heavier loads safely and in less time.

Evelyn Amoah is from Offuman in the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana. She owns a shop as well as helping on the family farm. The bike she received through the Re~Cycle/VPB effort will help transport crops from the farm to the town market, 5km away. "I will use my bike to take crops to the market," says Evelyn. Her daughters will also use the bike to get to school.

A bicycle donated overseas is often shared between family members and sometimes throughout a village. Because many women in these communities do not know how to ride a bicycle, the Learn2Ride program initiated by VPB is critical to empowering these women to better serve their families and create a better way of life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Top Shops

This month Bikes for the World would like to recognize our many shop partners who help give our donors a convenient location to drop off a bicycle year round...even when our community led collections are dormant.

In 2013 13% of our bike donations (about 2,000 bikes) came in through our local drop off points at our bike shop partners. We also worked with some of the same partners during our regular collection schedule to bring in another 500 bikes.

Race Pace Bicycles
Bikes for the World partners with 14 local shops in MD, VA, and DC all of whom collect bikes year round, issue receipts on our behalf, and store bikes until we can schedule a pick up. Some shops, like Race Pace Bicycles in Maryland and Spokes Etc. in Virginia collect at ALL of their locations and even transport the donated bikes to one shop so we can make one stop and collect about 60 bikes at a time. This makes scheduling our pick ups more efficient and helps us collect more bikes weekly.

Jan and Helen at Bikenetic
Many bike shops, especially in the DC area, are very cramped for space. Those who have warehouse space often have it off site from their actual bike shop, meaning any donations they take for us would need to be transported to another location and stored.

Some shops also save tires and parts for us, which can build up quickly, and as you can imagine mountain bike tires can really take up space. Our shop partners typically store these items for us for several months at a time. Donations to Bikes for the World require a significant commitment to space sharing by our shop partners, for which we are very grateful.

Many of the bikes coming to BfW through bike shops would otherwise end up in the local landfill or recycling bin. Once bike owners find out how much it would cost to repair an old bicycle some turn their attention to the sales floor. When they learn that their old bike could be helping someone live a better life it's often easier to part with their beloved bicycle.

The Mahleys donated two NEW bikes
In other cases, donors are drawn to the shops because they already know they want to donate a bike to Bikes for the World. It's not unusual to find a generous donor, especially around Christmastime, who will buy a brand new bike only to turn around and immediately donate it to BfW.

Last year the Mahleys brought two new Treks from Spokes Etc. that will be shipped out later this year. A mechanic from Race Pace bought and donated 10 new Kona bikes that were shipped to Kenya last year.

Dillard collection at Spokes Ashburn
Although our shop partners like to keep track of how many bikes they donate to us...Race Pace and City Bikes both donated over 500 bikes in the last three years and Spokes donated over 1,000...they are more than supportive of our community driven collections as well.

Some of our partners, like Pedal Pushers in Severna Park, host dedicated bike collections at their shops. All of our partners will help advertise another collection and sometimes give up their supply of bikes to help seed a local collection, like the Eagle project coming up at REI in Fairfax.

For a full list of our partnering shops and this month's BfW All-Stars visit our website.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pedal-Powered Guatemalan-Style

Courtesy Bici Tec and BNB
The way we view a bicycle in America is largely as a means of exercise or enjoyment. More and more Americans are using bikes as transportation to work or to run errands. But imagine using a bicycle to pump water or grind your coffee in the morning. That's exactly what's happening overseas.

Bici-Tec in Guatemala is an organization started by Carlos Marroquin and in part supported by donated bikes from Boston based Bikes Not Bombs.

Carols Marroquin
Carlos takes an ordinary bicycle and cuts, welds, rebuilds, and redesigns in some cases, everything to make it a human-powered factory-like machine. They pump, grind, de-shell, grate, de-kernel, blend...all by pedal and chain.

So those bikes that aren't quite in trail-like condition you want to donate but don't know if it's worth it....certainly are! In Guatemala your old beater Schwinn may be delivering 5 to 10 gallons of water per minute from a family well saving time and energy for other important chores around the house.

Carols Marroquin founded Bici-Tec in 2012 as a way to use affordable technology, 'Bicimáquinas' (adapted donated bicycles) to further sustainable development in rural Guatemala.

Bicimáquinas, bicycle machines, offer a speedy alternative to difficult, tedious tasks that would otherwise be done manually or cost a lot in electric or gasoline required to run industrial machines. Bicimáquinas allow farmers to decrease processing time thus increasing their revenue. Check out some of the Bicycle Machines Carols has created.

This summer, 2014, Bici-Tec is offering a six week pilot program where YOU can learn how to make these pedal-powered machines. International and Guatemalan students will study side-by-side in San Andres Itzapa while Carlos Marroquin leads this hands-on course in designing and manufacturing his Bicimáquinas.

The School of Appropriate Bici-Technology will introduce students to the challenges faced by rural families and labor saving solutions. Learn more on how you can get involved.