Bikes for the World

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How My Bike Ended up Changing Lives in Mindanao

Maria Park graduated from the Friends School of Baltimore last year. For one of her final projects she contacted Bikes for the World to do a bike collection in honor of Earth Month at the school.

Maria and her father used to ride together on a trail near their house before she went away to college. Maria's dad bought a purple Huffy bike from a university student so he could ride with Maria. They donated it to Bikes for the World.

After that April collection, we loaded a container of bikes heading to the Philippines. We told Maria that her old bikes (she donated two) would likely end up helping students there. She was happy to know that her bikes would bring someone the same joy they had her.

Maria shared this memory soon after she donated the bikes: "One of my favorite things to do is ride on a wooded trail with my dad. The trail used to be a railroad line, and it runs by a river, grassy hills, and little towns. One little town called Monkton has a cafe with the best milkshakes. That cafe was the destination of our trips, but the journeys to and from it were almost more important. Quality father-daughter bonding time, the feeling of wind rushing by your ears, the beautiful leafy green that surrounded everything, the nice people we met along the way...I will always treasure the memories of riding these bikes together with my dad."

So we tried to track that purple Huffy to its new owner in the Philippines. And just last month it surfaced in Laak, Compostela Valley in the region of Mindanao, Philippines.

This is Jubanie Marquez, the new owner of that same purple Huffy from Baltimore Maryland. Jubanie lives in Laak and is an eighth grader at Don Vicente Romualdez National High School.

Jubanie is from a large family in a very poor community. Jubanie is at an age when many students are forced to drop out of school to either help out around the house or work outside the home to help with family expenses.

One of the reasons many students drop out of school is long commutes to school on foot. Jubanie was loaned a bicycle through Bikes for the Philippines to help cut down on his commute time.

Jubanie stands here with his new bike in front of his house. He has six siblings and two of them are married with children of their own. They are all living here in this small house, 13 total.

Like many people in this area the family's main source of income is from farming. His parents are harvesting corn this year, but they lease the farm so they can only keep 1/3 of the crop.

Jubanie's dad also picks up work as a chainsaw operator, but the work is temporary and doesn't provide much income regularly. They make just enough to get by day to day.

Jubanie's dream is to become a mechanical engineer someday and he is so glad to have this new bike to help him commute to school. His brother, Julito, and sister, Jeralyn, also received bikes this year through the Bikes for Education project.

95% of the bike beneficiaries at Don Vicente Romualdez come from households that earn less than $25 a month. For many families that is split between 5-10 people living under the same roof.

This house to the left is shared by seven people and it has no water or electricity. A beneficiary named Jericho lives here. Jericho's father used to have a good mill job, but after hurting his back has trouble finding work he can do without pain. Jericho wants to stay in school and hopefully get a good job after he graduates so he can help his father and his entire family.

Jericho lives more than three miles from school. He saves over two hours a day now that he can ride that distance to school.  He is also able to use his bike to help gather firewood and sometimes water for his family.

90% of the households in this area have no drinking water. Many people use corrugated sheets of metal to help collect rainwater because bottled water is just too expensive for many of these poor families. Bike beneficiaries are allowed to use their bikes for school and some home errands, like carrying clean water back to their houses. Bikes help cut costs and travel time which helps families save money for school fees, medications, and food.

With the recent addition of Don Vicente Romualdez NHS to the Bikes for the Philippines Education project, BfP is now the only bike project operating in all three regions of the Philippines.

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