Bikes for the World

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mirriam Odura: An Outspokin' Woman

"My name is Mirriam Odura. I am a mechanic."

Mirriam is 33 years old. She is a mother, daughter, singer, athlete, advocate, role model, mechanic, business owner...simply put, Mirriam is a champion. She is also physically challenged. She is changing attitudes about what being 'dis'-abled means.

"She doesn't seem to be handicapped," says Mirriam's father. She has always wanted to explore, has always been adventurous. He said, "I cannot discourage her from anything." When she puts her mind to something she goes after it.

And that's just what she did in her career. When Bikes Not Bombs began the idea of a cooperative bike shop in Koforidua they reached out to disabled Ghanaians looking for a staff to not only run the shop, but own it. Mirriam approached BNB's David Branigan and said, "I want to be part of this program." And Ability Bikes was born.

Mirriam joined David and a team of aspiring mechanics to learn more about bikes and running a local bike shop. When David asked her to true a wheel she initially bent the rim. It was a complete failure. All the guys laughed at her. But then she tried again and nailed it. She was a natural.

After that, those same male mechanics came to Mirriam and asked her to help them true their rims. She said, "You are sitting there laughing at me. You want me to help you? I won't do that!" But she did. And now when a customer comes in needing a wheel repair or rebuild, the guys all point to Mirriam. She is the best wheel builder in Koforidua. She just happens to be a woman. And 'dis'-abled. Whatever that means. It certainly doesn't stop her.

African men come in the shop with a wheel or a bike looking for a mechanic. The last thing they expect is to find that in a woman. They may be skeptical when meet her, but the bottom line is she can do something they can't do themselves. They all leave with a well tuned bicycle and a different attitude.

Being part of Ability Bikes has given Mirriam a respectable job and an important place in the community. She now has valuable skills that are very needed and respected in her community. She is inspiring to youth and adults. She represents physically challenged Ghanaians as a strong advocate. Even non-physically challenged women look up to her when it comes to learning a skill and being courageous in life. She is proud of her work. She is happy. In this male dominated field, Mirriam is a true champion.

Bikes for the World is shipping our fourth container to this project in October 2015. Mirriam may be fixing your old wobbly wheel in 2016! You can learn more about Mirriam in the video below.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Featured Volunteer: Johnson Lambert LLP

Johnson Lambert LLP
This month we recognize a team of 'volunteers' unlike any other. Johnson Lambert LLP is an accounting firm that has not only gotten their hands dirty in our warehouse but also dug deep in our office sorting through papers and figures to keep us on financial track.

This team at Johnson Lambert LLP, with help from their Fairfax VA and Raleigh NC offices, prepared on a pro bono basis, the Bikes for the World audit and IRS 990 report 2012-2014. More than simply making sure that our donors' resources have been properly stewarded - the team's assistance has enabled us to improve our operational efficiency and effectiveness through better financial management and compliance with federal and local jurisdiction.

Our relationship with the Johnson Lambert team goes back to 2012, when one of the company's younger employees, Emily Powell, began volunteering on her own with BfW. Enthused by our mission, Emily brought our team-building activities to the attention of the company's management when it was considering corporate volunteer opportunities. In June of that year, Emily brought a Johnson Lambert team of more than 20 individuals  to our warehouse in Lorton, where they prepped bikes and loaded a container for Costa Rica.

In September, Emily's senior colleague, Partner Audrey Newton, contacted BfW to explore the possibility of offering pro bono audit and related services. Within a few months arrangements were in place for a Johnson Lambert team to provide a full financial and operations audit, along with preparations of the IRS form 990 for 2012.

The first year's work took place beginning in July 2013 and extended into the fall. This was before BfW moved into our Arlington office and the JL team descended on Keith's dining room table and took over a quarter of his downstairs. Now in 2015, we are established in an office and with the improvements made to our record keeping, many at the recommendation of JL, the process has gone much more quickly and efficiently.

We are extremely grateful to Johnson Lambert LLP for its support, and in particular to Managing Partner Debbie Lambert and the team members who lent their support and expertise to this effort. Doing pro bono work is a very generous gesture on the part of the company, and is not without considerable costs. To be able to offer these services, the company schedules them during the summer months traditionally the least-pressured season. And while assigning a senior Partner as overall responsible manager, the company also uses the work for staff professional development, as a training and skill-building exercise for younger employees.