Bikes for the World

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Spotlight on El Salvador: CESTA

In the fall of 2014, Bikes for the World visited El Salvador to evaluate the progress of bike beneficiary partner CESTA, the El Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology. In 2015, CESTA became one of our largest recipients of donated bikes for the year. During our visit in 2014, we dropped into CESTA in San Marcos where they receive our bikes and train mechanics in the workshop. We also interviewed several interns, several key bike beneficiaries, and visited a couple schools to learn more about growing up in El Salvador.

Bikes for the World added CESTA as a beneficiary partner in 2012. Since that time we have donated over 4,300 bikes to the project through our efforts in the DC Metro region. Just last year in 2015, Bikes for the World assisted in placing more than 2,000 bikes in El Salvador through sister organizations in Chicago, St. Louis, and a group in Wisconsin.

CESTA's goal is to promote the empowerment of community organizations and municipalities in El Salvador to improve their quality of life in harmony with the environment. Their primary areas of work focus on transportation, health, and the environment. Our donated bikes support all three areas.

Through community bike rides, CESTA promotes a healthy lifestyle alternative that in turn is also beneficial to cutting pollution and protecting the earth. They work within local jurisdictions to bring safety and visibility to riders, specifically in the urban setting of San Marcos.

The bike project, known as EcoBici, helps introduce more bikes to the city and surrounding towns while creating mechanic training programs for at risk youth in a dangerous city.

EcoBici provides internships in bike repair to low-income youth. The interns are typically 'employed' for three months while they learn technical skills for maintaining and repairing bicycles. Some interns are invited to stay longer if they exhibit advanced interest or skills in bike mechanics. Interns receive an allowance for food and transportation. Some students who live in more distance towns are also offered a room in the CESTA dormitory. Student mechanics also earn a small wage for every bike they repair during the internship.

Many trainees in the program cite the camaraderie among participants as a strong motivating factor of the project. CESTA, through it's many programs supporting the environment, also provides a much needed alternative to gang involvement to area youth. CESTA works with youth on conflict resolution tools and provides a pathway to more productive leadership roles in their own lives and their communities.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Featured Volunteer: Marty Reisinger

Marty "McFly" Reisinger doesn't drive a DeLorean but he is taking us back in time as we take a look at how this month's Featured Volunteer got his start collecting bikes for Bikes for the World.

Let's set our time machine's Destination Time to 1992, long before BfW's start in 2005. When Marty's daughter Emma was born he was faced with a decision many of us struggle with...what to do with the old 'bachelor' bike.

At the time Marty was riding an old 1972 Schwinn Continental. He still remembers it well. The college commutes, summer trips to the beach, the gas shortage of the served him well, but it was time to switch over to a "daddy" bike, something sturdy enough to carry his daughter on back. Twenty years is a long time to hang on to a bike; while there were still years left in it, it was time for an upgrade.

And so Marty donated his beloved Schwinn to an organization sending bikes overseas. He loved the idea. He even helped arrange some free and discounted shipping for the group with Sea-Land since he was very familiar with the complexities of moving goods while working at CSX Intermodal.

Now, let's accelerate (88 MPH to be exact) to engage our flux capacitor to take us to 2005. Marty learned about Bikes for the World, approached Director Keith Oberg, and started collecting bikes for us through his church St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Lutherville.

It's hard to say how many bikes Marty has collected over the years. He's worked with St. Paul's and the neighborhood bike shop Lutherville Bikes. He's also stepped up and managed events at REI Timonium, even when they fell on Father's Day. Let's just say Marty has helped bring well over 500 bikes into our warehouse over the last ten years.

Literally. There was one year when Keith was in a jam and asked Marty to drive a box truck filled with bikes to a warehouse in DC. Marty made it all the way into the city when he found himself surrounded by police cars in front of the Capitol. A suspicious U-Haul circling a no truck zone near the Capitol can be cause for alarm in DC. Surely Marty was wishing for a DeLorean to take him away at that precise moment, but he managed to talk himself out of jail time and eventually made his way to the warehouse. There is no record of him ever delivering bikes again, however. :)

It's clear to see the dedication Marty brings to Bikes for the World. He likes the work and enjoys talking with donors. He remembers one family that donated seven bikes at a collection he was managing at REI. They shared stories with him about the bikes and took photos before finally turning them over to the collection. A struggle to part with an 'old friend', Marty knows all too well.

Giving folks an option that can help change lives often gives them the strength to let go of an old bike. And those bikes at REI, one of them was Abbey's childhood bike. It was shipped to Costa Rica as our 70,000th bike donated. We tracked it from our warehouse in Rockville all the way to Costa Rica. It's now providing enjoyment to a new child in Costa Rica. Something Abbey and Marty are proud to be part of.