Bikes for the World

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Honoring Craig Annear and Nick Griffin

Jerry Rogers, Keith Oberg, Craig Annear, Nick Griffin
The long awaited tale of "How it Began"...

When Executive Director Keith Oberg (kneeling with bike in the photo to the right) made the decision to establish Bikes for the World, identifying storage and enlisting community groups to collect bikes, he did not do it alone. Craig Annear and Nick Griffin, pictured to the right of the bike at this Bikes for the World collection at Herndon High School in 2005, have been with Bikes for the World since the beginning of time, or at least since Bikes for the World formed.

Craig, who had recently retired from a career as a lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency and who had a life-long interest in Africa (and whose son had recently served in the Peace Corps in Zambia), came to an event featuring a speaker from Ghana, discussing bikes in Ghana.

Nick had recently relocated from his home town of New York City to work in international assistance with a Northern VA-based agency, and knew about Keith's efforts through his brother, who had done a field survey and report on bicycles in Nicaragua.

Both saw the potential for Bikes for the World to grow, and quickly became active, spending countless hours driving trucks, mentoring new bike processors, and loading shipments. It helped that both enjoyed physical exercise and wanted to stay in shape. Both took the lead in loading 40' shipping containers, frequently tackling the infamous 'third level.' As Keith often joked to first-timers, "now you know why [we] quit our membership at Sport & Health".

This past year, Bikes for the World recognized both men with the Starley Award for leadership in our ascent. Both Craig and Nick served as Chairpersons throughout Bikes for the World's climb. Tom Tepper is the current Bikes for the World Chair.

Bikes for the World began as a "sponsored project" of a supportive Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). In essence, Keith was given free rein to manage Bikes for the World's finances and operations. Craig contributed his legal knowledge, helping to prepare a standard "memorandum of understanding" which BfW used in establishing relationships with overseas receiving partners. Nick contributed his contacts and expertise in identifying several early partners.

Over its first three years, the program grew rapidly, from 5,000 bikes handled to over 10,000 in 2008. But it was taking its toll on Keith, and on volunteers. Nick was particularly assertive in urging Keith to hire help and broaden the base of support.

Bike use in Africa
In 2008, Nick traveled to Senegal on Bikes for the World's behalf, along with the Village Bicycle Project's David Peckham, to prepare an innovative complementary effort to a USAID secondary school construction project. Nick's international development expertise and contacts, and strong French skills, paired with Peckham's West African field and bicycle technology knowledge, enabled the duo to prepare a proposal to bring in a container of 500 bicycles to enable students walking long miles to school, to get there more quickly via bicycle. The project quickly won USAID and Ministry of Education approval, only to flounder on irrational Ministry of Finance import restrictions.

Finally, in the fall of 2009, Craig and Nick, along with Jerry Rogers (all pictured at top with Keith), convened a meeting in a Rosslyn sports bar--convenient to Nick's office and Jerry's bike commuter route. There, the three prevailed upon Keith to hire office help and begin considering other ways to build Bikes for the World into a permanent organization. It would be the first step toward moving out from under WABA's sponsorship and becoming an independent non-profit agency.

Bikes for the World hopes to ship its 100,000th bike this fall. With over a dozen global partners and increasing corporate partnerships, BfW collects and donates over 14,000 bikes annually, affecting lives from Rockville communities to remote villages in Africa to small schools in Bohol, Philippines.

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