Bikes for the World

Monday, November 28, 2016

Covering a lot of Ground

More students. More bikes. This month marks another turnover of bikes for Bikes for the Philippines.

The latest group of students pedaling their way to class is from Lourdes High School on the island of Bohol, Philippines where the project first began in 2011.

Since that time, Bikes for the Philippines (BfP) has expanded to over a dozen school districts on all three island groups of the Philippines, with even more new schools slated for 2017.

Since BfP joined forces with the Department of Education, the Bikes for Education program really gained momentum. With DepEd behind the effort to bring bikes to students, the all-volunteer team behind BfP could barely keep up.

All donated bikes coming from Bikes for the World are inventoried and repaired by a dedicated team of volunteers in the main warehouse in Manila.  From there bikes are transported to schools up and down the island chain. What originally began on Bohol is now spreading across the nation.

While this is ultimately what the organization hoped for, the expansion brings plenty of challenges...all of which BfP is up for and figuring out. The growing impact is also strengthening the program as well as making better use of the shipments coming from BfW.

With the new school additions, came new terrain, making more of the bikes donated from the US useful to the program. Previously only mountain bikes were being used in some of the more mountainous areas. BfP has also expanded to include all ages of riders.

This past two years, BfP expanded to its first elementary school (Sto. Nino Baloc Elementary School) making use of smaller bikes. The first urban school (Regional Lead School for the Arts in Angono) started using road bikes for beneficiaries.

Moving the program to Luzon brought a lot of attention to the Bikes for Education program. Media coverage and visits to the more accessible schools introduced this successful idea to more supporters and corporate partners.

BfP is now partnered with DepEd to support their popular Pedals and Paddles Program to help students with difficult commutes to school. They have also found support through sponsors such as Metrobank, San Miguel, and Mitsubishi.

But boots on the ground, continues to impede progress. It's tough to keep so many schools rolling with so many miles and bodies of water in between. Like many of our other rural projects, BfP also struggles with the simple task of communication. Internet connectivity among the schools varies greatly throughout the Philippines. Each school budget also varies and possibly affects the quality and amount of equipment necessary to report back to BfP.

Barry is a teacher and bike coordinator
In an effort to combat this issue, BfP now requires each school district participating in the program to identify a bike coordinator who will be reporting back to BfP. The coordinators will be making sure the program is implemented properly, students receive the required training, and the overall success of the program continues to be measured.

As we saw in our African programs focused on volunteer health workers, motivation among volunteers needs to be addressed and efforts rewarded to ensure the success of the model. BfP is now working on incentives to inspire these volunteers.

The proper implementation of the program is very reliant on the reports of these bike coordinators. Bikes are issued to hand selected beneficiaries who struggle financially and live a great distance from school.

Support of the program within the school itself is essential but difficult to monitor from afar. BfP is now looking to ensure continued success of the program by training and supporting these bike coordinators at every school enrolled in the Pedals and Paddles Program.

No comments:

Post a Comment