Bikes for the World

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

We Say Goodbye to King Farm

Bikes for the World is losing a part of the family. It is with great sadness that we announce the closing of the Bikes for the World facility at King Farm in Rockville.

This ends a seven-year tenure during which Bikes for the World operated the Rockville Youth Bike Project out of two of the farm buildings- the hay barn and a tenant cottage. BfW stored and dispatched more than 25,000 bicycles around the world from this location, to local recipients such as the nearby Montgomery County temporary workers' center, to institutions and individuals in places like Ghana, Mozambique, and Uganda.

Among the activities at "the Farm" were the gifting each May of reconditioned bikes to Rockville elementary school children who earned them through participation in a Department of Recreation & Parks values-promotion program. More than 250 reconditioned bikes were presented to local students over the life of the project.

In support of Bikes for the World's international activities, which saw the aforementioned 25,000+ bicycles collected, prepped, and stored locally, and shipped from the site, the RYBP provided local middle and high school students with opportunities to earn thousands of "student service learning" hours required for graduation from Maryland public schools, and reflect on issues of recycling and reuse, the environment, transportation, and humanitarian assistance.

Other activities included hosting Boy Scout service projects, including two young men who built storage racks and painted the barn fulfilling their independent community service project requirement for the Eagle rank, and a social action partnership, now about to enter its fourth year, bringing Stone Ridge School juniors and seniors to the Farm every other week during the school year to immerse the students in Bikes for the World's work, learning about bikes and their contribution to the environment and to human development.

During the first three years of the RYBP, under contract to the City of Rockville, Bikes for the World annually taught pedestrian and bike safety at public and private elementary schools around the city, reaching several thousand children overall and contributing to the City's outstanding pedestrian and cycling safety record.

A recent engineering study contracted by our landlord, the City of Rockville, determined that the roof and supporting walls of the barn, our principal locus of activity, were at risk of collapse. The study identified structural issues with the other buildings, resulting in the City's decision to suspend all activities at the farmstead pending a decision on the future of the site.

Bikes for the World is currently looking for a replacement space in Montgomery County to continue to operate the program and store bicycles. If you know of any potentially available space, whether short or long term, free or for commercial lease, please contact Bikes for the World executive director Keith Oberg at 571.212.4139 or

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Featured Volunteer: Keith Whitaker

Collecting bikes in South Carolina
Summer 2012. "I live in Charleston, SC and am interested in helping out." It was a simply stated, common email that came into Bikes for the World about two years ago. We had no idea then, how serious Keith Whitaker was.

Keith is the marketing director at Gildan's Branded Apparel Division headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina. He heard about Bikes for the World and he wanted to get involved. But he also had a vision: he wanted to take advantage of the containers his company was sending back to their operation in Honduras. Let's fill them with bikes!

This was no ordinary volunteer fulfilling community service hours. Keith was in a position to expand our vision to create Bikes for the World 'chapters' outside the DC area. Bikes for the World was about to pop up in South Carolina. We were stoked!

Fast forward a year. Summer 2013. Coordinating an effort at a distance between a corporation and a new non-profit partner overseas doesn't happen overnight. While BfW Director Keith Oberg was working out the details with the potential partner, Fundacion Adelante, Gildan's Director of Marketing Keith Whitaker was speaking with the company's CEO.

Finally, everyone came to an agreement. Keith Whitaker would host several bike collections in the community, collect bikes and store them at Gildan. Adelante agreed to take an initial shipment of 100 bikes to get a feel for how the program would work.

First BfW container loading in SC
So Whitaker recruited the help from fellow co-workers Sarah Stafford and Chuck Jones to help advertise the collections, prep the bikes, and ultimately load the container themselves, right there in South Carolina. To supplement the shipment Keith Oberg arranged to have bikes collected earlier in 2013 at Reagan High School in NC transported to Gildan in SC. In fact, Whitaker also coordinated the effort to pick up and deliver these bikes to Gildan's warehouse in SC.

Fast forward one more year. Summer 2014. Adelante recently reported back to Bikes for the World on the how the program was going. Our donated bikes were received in February 2014. They were then refurbished so that they could be sold at a low cost to rural Hondurans in need of affordable transportation to get to work and school.

Jose Matute, bike mechanic and shop owner
Jose Matute, a local bicycle shop owner, was responsible for getting the donated bikes back in working order. His bike business is booming by supplying parts to the new bike owners as well as continuing further maintenance on the bikes.

Profits from the bike program are helping to fund a new initiative Adelante is currently establishing, the Secondary Education Loan. This loan will help clients with the high cost of sending a child to school, to help pay for things such as textbooks and school uniforms.

Interested in helping out. A powerful and understated phrase that led to one man flanked by two dedicated friends joining forces with the nation's leading bicycle re-use program to deliver hope to rural Honduras. Featured Volunteer? Yeah, that's an understatement.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Getting Back To School

The desire to stay in school is often challenged by the need to drop out for many poorer children in remote areas of the world. In villages around the globe, where students often live several miles from school without affordable transportation, drop-out rates in high schools and even middle schools are soaring.

Yellow Boat of HOPE provides boats for Filipino students
Many rural communities often have rocky, narrow paths leading from students' homes to their far off schools. In the Philippines, which is a country of small islands, some students even have to cross water in order to attend school.

Adding to the challenge of simply getting to school, many families cannot afford to have their children away from home for long periods of time. Many are responsible for household chores, caring for siblings, and even working in the community to help their families.

As students become older and enter high school, their commutes often become longer, sometimes 2-3 hours of their days. They have less time for homework and find themselves tired in the classroom. For a family that may earn only $25 US a week, having that child drop out to help around the house is often better for the family.

But ultimately not better for the child. Or the community. Education is the key to making their communities better and their governments stronger. Shortening commutes and giving back the to the families the precious resource of time is a good place to start. And a bicycle is a great way to accomplish that.

In Honduras, one family is struggling with more than just how to get to school; Norma, the mother of three sons, cannot afford to send her oldest son back to school. When Ronaldo entered seventh grade, he was walking two hours every day in extreme heat, just to get to and from school. He ended up dropping out.

Now Ronaldo is 15 and wants to go back to school. He is the oldest of three boys and wants to set a good example for his brothers. He also realized he couldn't reach his potential without a degree. Unfortunately, his family did not have the economic resources to help him re-enroll.

But just this month, thanks to the partnership with Bikes for the World, Adelante, a micro-finance program in Honduras, is addressing this problem. They are not only assisting by getting bikes to rural areas to help kids with transportation to school, but they are also helping provide loans for school associated costs.

Profits from the bike project will help fund a Secondary Education Loan initiative created to support family's like Ronaldo's. This will help with the high cost of uniforms, textbooks, and administration fees required at the beginning of a school year allowing Ronaldo to fulfill his dream of continuing his education.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

From Students in NC to Students in Honduras

In 2013 Bikes for the World teamed up with Gildan Activewear to deliver a trial shipment of about 100 bikes to a potential new partner in Honduras. Bikes for the World already works with Art for Humanity, a local non-profit, to occasionally donate a few bikes in containers they pack full of a variety of donated items.

This pilot effort by Bikes for the World and Gildan Activewear delivered a container of bikes to a micro-finance group called  Fundacion Adelante. Adelante was founded in 1999 in response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Mitch, which left $3.8 billion in damages and over three million citizens homeless.

Adelante provides short-term small business loans to the poorest of the poor rural Honduran women, so they can invest in small businesses to earn income to support themselves and their families. Over time, the women use their business profits to buy better food for their families, improve their homes, buy medicine when necessary, send their children to school, and save for the future.

Reagan High School students
Bikes collected at Gildan's Branded Apparel division headquarters in South Carolina were loaded into an empty container heading back to Honduras where Gildan also operates.

In addition to the bikes collected at Gildan, Bikes for the World arranged to have bikes collected on our behalf at Reagan High School in North Carolina transported to Gildan. The bikes collected by these students were also loaded onto this container donated to Adelante in Honduras.

Reagan High's Key Club has partnered with Bikes for the World the last three years. We can't always track where an individual bike may end up, but in this case, bikes collected at Reagan High during the 2013 collection were all shipped to Honduras. Knowing how those bikes are helping a community reinforces the impact those students are making not only in their home town of Pfafftown, NC, but also in five separate regions in Honduras.

Adelante received this donation of bicycles, delivered by Gildan, at the beginning of 2014. The profits from bike sales are funding a new Educational Loan project established just this month that will begin in 2015.

Adelante is distributing our donated bicycles at a low cost in rural areas that have little access to resources and reliable transportation. Bikes will help keep students enrolled in school and also help Adelante clients transport goods with greater ease.

Clients are eligible for an Educational Loan to help finance sending their kids to school. Adelante learned that 35% of their clients have children between the ages of 12-20 that have dropped out of school. Another 37% of clients have children at risk of dropping out before graduation.