Bikes for the World

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Honoring Keith Oberg, Founder and Director

Bikes for the World's executive director, Keith Oberg, was recently honored for his 'extraordinary humanitarian service', as the recipient of John's Hopkins University's 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award. A 1977 graduate of JHU's School of Advanced International Studies, Keith accepted the award on behalf of Bikes for the World community -- volunteers and staff -- who have built the organization over the last decade. For this reason, the JHU medal will enjoy a prominent place in the Bikes for the World Arlington office.

Keith and Craig Annear in Reston
From the beginning, Keith set out to establish Bikes for the World as a reputable, sustainable program with international reach while also benefiting his local community.

"Primarily due to Keith's commitment and hard work, BfW has emerged as an organization that delivers a broad range of benefits:
  • for the ultimate beneficiaries, sustainable transportation to schools, health care, and employment and economic empowerment;
  • direct environmental benefits by keeping bikes out of U.S. landfills and promoting nonpolluting transportation worldwide;
  • community service opportunities in the United States; and
  • promotion of a reuse/recycling ethic,"
                                                                 Craig Annear, BfW volunteer and Board Member

Otterbein's 10th annual bike collection
A testament to Bikes for the World's impact and Keith's influence as the founder and director, one has to look no further than the hundreds of volunteers powering the organization. Many dedicated volunteers have been with Keith, leading bike collections and packing containers with bikes, from the very beginning over a decade ago.

"Not only does our partnership with Bikes for the World extend to global projects, it creates a unique local opportunity for service and outreach. For Otterbein (United Methodist Church), it is one of the many "parking lot" ministries offered throughout the year. Outreach on our lot brings together church neighborhood and members,"
                                                         Cindy Brown, Collection Manager at Otterbein United Methodist Church. Over the last decade Otterbein has collected and donated over 2,000 bikes to Bikes for the World

Keith in Costa Rica with beneficiary
"From the beginning Keith impressed me with his intuitive understanding of the complex issues facing an NGO with limited finances, but endless possibilities to serve the less developed world by re-purposing bicycles headed for US landfills.

I never doubted Keith's abilities, dedication to the mission or charm, and I always knew he would succeed; but I could never have imagined that 8 years after starting Bikes for the World, it would have delivered nearly 100,000 bikes overseas, making a difference in the lives of nearly 100,000 farmers, students, health care workers, carpenters and entrepreneurs of all kinds and at the same time expand its mission to elevate the lives of so many young people at home,"

                                  Sarah J. Jelin, President and General Counsel The Karnak Corporation

"Keith's vision and incredible hard work have translated into an efficient, productive organization which measurably enhances the quality of life for some of the world's poorest and some of its richest,"

                                                            Hellen Gelband, BfW volunteer and Board Member

Monday, February 2, 2015

Teaching By Doing

Young student in the Philippines
"The idea of expanding students' global awareness of life in developing countries where children are unable to attend school or get to the doctor because of the lack of personal transportation is an important concept.

"The whole notion of our throw-away society was also something we wanted to convey as well as simple activism and becoming involved in service to others," Ted Haynie, retired school principal Calvert County MD.

Haynie organized a collective effort among Calvert County schools to collect bikes for Bikes for the World and participate in a 'live' load as part of a school wide service project. The project collected over 600 bikes and taught students the value of affordable transportation, community service, and recycling efforts.

Students at Irving Middle School, Springfield VA
Bikes for the World  regularly offers a variety of activities that engage students and teach them valuable lessons and skills while earning them service hours and connecting them with people in need around the globe.

Whether students are working with us to collect bikes or load them for partners overseas, they are learning to work with their hands and how to work together to complete a common goal. They are also learning about our beneficiaries, how the bikes improve their lives, and why their work with us is so important.

Family in Honduras
Each bike donated through Bikes for the World often benefits four people. Because of the work our volunteers do in compacting bikes during collections and loadings, BfW is able to pack our donated containers tight with bikes, increasing the value of our shipments by including even more bicycles per donation.

Many beneficiaries overseas are also using these donated bikes to help students get to school and stay in school to graduate. The bicycle is helping the students get to school faster, leaving more time for homework and house chores.

Our student volunteers at home can easily identify with the kids we are helping overseas and this project shows them how their old bikes are changing lives.

Chesterbrook Elementary, McLean VA

While students can contact us directly to earn service hours on their own, many teachers volunteer to help lead their students in this process. Some schools hold bike collections right on their campuses and some bring the kids to our warehouse in Arlington to help with a loading.

This past weekend we were joined in our warehouse by Eastern High School out of DC and Chesterbrook Elementary from McLean VA. The schools worked together to prep bikes for donation, organize our warehouse for upcoming loadings, and finish the container for Costa Rica.

Teacher Sarah Miller instructing students in the warehouse
Maria Pike, teacher at Chesterbrook, and Sarah Miller, from Eastern HS, organized warehouse work sessions with BfW to help students gain service hours for graduation. It was a way to get students involved while teaching them about the importance of affordable transportation and the value of recycling.

This effort is an exercise in leading by example. Miller knows the value a bike brings overseas and she wanted her students to learn how they could make a bigger impact while earning service hours.

Throughout the session, Pike noticed her students embracing the tools and skills involved in prepping bikes. Getting kids comfortable around a bicycle will give them confidence on the road as they begin riding on our trails and streets here at home.

Teachers at Colvin Run manage regular bike collections
In fact, teachers tell us this often. It's not just using tools or even working on the bikes, kids involved with this project often seem shy with the activity when they first start but are soon experts at removing pedals and using the right tools for the right job. This is something that will stay with them for life.

"I feel more responsibility than ever before. I feel impelled to spend more of my time giving back to the community and volunteering whenever I can. I hope that the recipients, who receive the bikes I load, will find the same freedom that invigorates me when I ride," Stone Ridge student volunteer Allie Arinaga.

If you are interested in setting up a collection or organizing a group to help with a loading in our warehouse, please contact