Bikes for the World

Friday, October 16, 2015

My Favorite Subject Is....

Village Bicycle Project (VBP) knows first hand how important a bicycle can be to a student in Ghana or Sierra Leone. We donate thousands of bicycles annually to Village Bicycle Project both in Ghana and Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone, VBP operates a Bike Library that loans bikes to students to help them stay in school and graduate. Through their Learn 2 Ride program they are able to teach some students how to ride a bike for the very first time.

A recent report from VBP Director Dave Peckham indicates that some of these students are no longer using the bikes in their Bike Library. We see this as a very good problem to have, since some of the students below have already left the program since graduating high school!

ENGLISH Alusine  walks for an hour to school each morning with his younger brothers and sisters and is always eager for his English class, since he loves to read and write.  He plans to study English when he goes to college and wants to travel around the U.K., U.S., and South Africa before coming back to Sierra Leone to become an English teacher.   

He helps Educaid staff maintain the school grounds and his teachers say he is a big help with some of the younger children.

INTEGRATED SCIENCE Assan lives in a village called Mamalikie, which is about a two and a half hour walk from his school.  He lives with his mother and helps her take care of his five younger siblings. 

His favorite class is Integrated Science and he wants to go to university to study biology.  He loves science because he says he wants to “understand how the world works.”  He will use a VBP library bicycle to reach school every day and help him work on reaching his goals.

ART Fatamata is quick to laugh and loves fashion and art.  She lives with her brothers and sisters at her grandmother’s house, about a two hour walk away from her school. 

While she was participating in VBP’s Learn to Ride program, her older sister passed away from malaria.  Despite being devastated by the loss of her sister, Fatamata decided to only take a few days off from school because she knew her sister wanted her to succeed at school.  Fatamata is planning to go to college.

MATH Fatima is 20 and one of the older students in school. Fatima left school about ten years ago when the war broke out and her parents passed away.  To support herself and her brother, she learned how to be a seamstress from the Red Cross but never gave up on her hope to complete secondary school. 

With support from her aunt and the encouragement of teachers she re-enrolled in 2010 and loves being back in school.  She hopes to become an accountant some day and has especially enjoyed her math class.

PE Hawa lives in Rubeiki and has a 90 minute walk to school.  Physical education has always been her favorite subject in school, which isn’t surprising considering how quickly she picked up riding.

She lives with her mother and helps her on their farm after she gets home from school.  Hawa loves school and hopes to be a nurse some day but often feels afraid walking to school, since she walks alone.  By using one of our library bicycles she’ll be able to get to school faster and feel safer along the way.

BUSINESS Mamasu walks two and a half hours to reach school from her village, Bonline, where she lives with her parents and five siblings.  Mamasu likes her Business Studies class and wants to become a lawyer so she can support her family. 

She had never ridden a bicycle before she began the Learn to Ride program but picked it up quickly.  Mamasu is excited to start riding a bike to school so that she doesn’t have to be afraid of coming across snakes on her way to school anymore.

RELIGIOUS STUDIES Margaret  lives with her father, grandmother, five brothers, and four sisters. Her house is about a three hour walk away from her school.  She loves reading and her favorite class is her Religious Studies class. 

Before starting the Learn to Ride program, she felt nervous about trying to ride a bike on some of the busy streets around Lunsar. After a little practice on the obstacle course she now feels more prepared. 

CHEMISTRY Mariatu loves studying science, Chemistry in particular.  Since both of her parents passed away a few years ago, she lives with her grandmother and is the oldest of 8 children. 

It takes her two hours to walk to school every morning and she can’t wait to use one of VBP’s bikes in the fall.  By ensuring that Mariatu will have faster transportation to school, the VBP bicycle library at her school is doing a small part toward helping her reach her dream of being a doctor someday.   

LANGUAGE ARTS Mariama has been deaf and mute since birth and communicates with her teachers and fellow students using writing and gestures.  Since American Sign Language is not widely used in Sierra Leone, Mariama’s resourcefulness (and patience!) is tested daily as she completes her schoolwork.  

She is extremely determined to succeed in school.  Language Arts is her favorite class and she thinks she might want to be a writer some day. More than anything, she wants to travel, though, so she can see the world.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Francis Owino: Fixing Bikes, Creating Jobs

Francis Owino rides his bike six miles to work every day, saving himself an hour by avoiding traffic.  He is the father of 7 children and helps support three nieces and nephews. Francis is making sure all ten kids are in school and getting an education by paying their school fees.

Francis grew up on the western end of Kenya, moved to Nairobi, and eventually started his own business in Kibera. His mother sold fish to support her family and ensure her kids got a good education, something Francis is passing on to the next generation. Francis graduated primary school and went on to polytechnic school where he studied his passion, tailoring.

After graduation, Francis moved to Nairobi to chase his dreams and make a better living. However, he was only able to find a job selling used clothing. Francis focused on making hats but only made about three cents per hat. Undeterred but needing a better job, he ended up moving to Makina, Kibera to help a friend repair bikes.

His friend taught him the complex skills involved in bike mechanics. After about six months, Francis went out to start his own bike shop. He began fixing bikes and selling used tubes and tires, which was about all he could afford to buy at the time. For 20 years Francis struggled to survive, taking out loans to help buy bikes to repair and sell.

This past year, Francis met Wheels of Africa and life took a turn for the better. He is now able to buy more bikes at a cheaper price, turning a bigger profit for his shop. He employs three full time mechanics on a regular basis and up to eight part timers on the weekends when the shop is extremely busy.

"Meeting Wheels of Africa has been a total lifestyle change for me," says Francis. He no longer needs to take loans and has money to rent a stable shop that creates jobs for people in Makina. In addition to the lower prices offered at Wheels of Africa, the bikes are of a higher quality than he can get elsewhere. This draws a crowd, keeping Francis's shop busy, and customers happy.

Many of the bikes sold in Francis's bike shop are used for transportation in Kibera. Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi and the largest urban slum in Africa. One fifth of Nairobi's population lives within the slum of Kibera. As roads are built in a effort to clean up the slum, bikes are becoming an important transportation tool.

Francis also works to teach kids and beginners how to ride a bike. "Mungu Aibariki (God Bless) Wheels of Africa," beams Francis.

Post contributed in part by Dorcas and Patrick of Wheels of Africa.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Featured Volunteer: Nathan Cross

This guy. This guy is a valuable part of the Bikes for the World team. Meet Nathan Cross, debonair cyclist, committed volunteer, mechanic, and accomplished component recycler. Nathan strips parts off bikes that are shipped to our overseas partner mechanics. Those mechanics are using those valuable parts to put your old bikes back together, fixing them up to become valuable modes of transportation for work, school, and medical purposes.

The bottom line is you donated your bike to us for a reason. Often, that reason is the bike needs a tune up or sometimes major repairs. While our recipient partners would probably love to open a container and have all the bikes inside be in perfect working order, that's just never the case.

And that's not a bad thing. Many of the groups we partner with in Africa and Central America have sustainable programs in place that help employ local workers and empower businesses. Our donated bikes are distributed throughout many communities by our partners and put into the hands of local shop owners who were often trained by the same organizations. Our partners find entrepreneurs in remote villages and offer bike mechanic skills training to help them start thriving businesses.

 Over the past year Bikes for the World has made a huge effort to get more and more spare parts to these small remote bike shops to help those mechanics repair your old bikes and keep them in good working order.

Guys like Nathan help us make that possible. Several times a month he'll ride in on his bike from work to help us attack the mountain of junk bikes we have in the back corner. A 'junk bike' may be a frame that is bent or broken that still has good quality used parts on it. Rather than take that to the recycling center as is, we want to salvage as many workable parts as possible to be included in our containers donated overseas.

Nathan says he has no formal training, just tinkering with his own bikes from the time he was a kid. He's an avid cyclist who was looking to volunteer in Arlington. He wanted to make a difference and he was looking for a hands-on, physical activity and found us. Lucky us!

"I really enjoy the time spent in the warehouse, it feels great to be doing something I love and helping people in other parts of the world. Seeing the photos of shipping containers being opened by excited recipients is especially gratifying," says Nathan. He's proud of the work he is doing and it shows. And we all love to see the results of that work once those rescued components arrive overseas.

Edgardo- El Salvador
On the other side, meet Edgardo. Edgardo is learning to do what Nathan does, in reverse. When our bikes arrive overseas they need to be reassembled and tuned up. Many or our recipient partners either work with local bike shop owners or run programs on site employing mechanics who refurbish your old donated bikes.

For Edgardo this process has more than one component. He is part of CESTA in El Salvador, one of our dozen regular partners. CESTA works with at risk youth to help guide them to better futures and keep them safe from dangerous gangs.

Edgardo uses his bicycle to get to the shop and to school. At the shop he is learning valuable skills like how to tune a bicycle and do minor repairs. He also enjoys participating in the conflict resolution programs CESTA offers in addition to the hands on bike workshop.