Bikes for the World

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

We Are Phoenix

What is Phoenix Bikes? In mythology a phoenix is a bird with a cyclical life, that is to say it is reborn, given another life. Not too surprising then that Phoenix Bikes is a local bike organization that is bringing old bikes back to life.

The Phoenix crew assisting at BfW collection in Arlington
Also not surprising that Bikes for the World would be all about supporting Phoenix Bikes. Based in Arlington Virginia, Phoenix Bikes is right within our target donation area, 'the world'. Bikes for the World is proud to regularly donate bikes to this local program and here's why:

Like all of our beneficiary projects around the world, Phoenix Bikes is about so much more than just bikes. Phoenix Bikes works with area youth, teaching them about bikes, but more importantly helps build young leaders and strong community connections. They are learning skills to revive a bike, but also building skills that will take them even farther in life than that bike ever will.

Through their after school programs, Phoenix, in a sense, is also recruiting young mechanics. Phoenix is in more than half a dozen Arlington schools teaching kids how to fix a flat, adjust their brakes, and how to properly shift while riding.

They then work in a team to bring a bike back from the ashes that will be donated to a community member in need. Giving back to the community comes first. In the end, everyone comes to the Phoenix Bikes shop and has the opportunity to build their very own bike. Some like Noe and Robel never leave.

Noe is a guy who knows this program well. He has over four years under his belt greasy mechanic apron. He joined Phoenix Bikes in the summer of 2013 and he instantly impressed everyone with his attention to detail and incredible patience, traits that have served him well behind the bike stand.

Noe has recently taken on a new role with Phoenix Bikes: bike club instructor at Hammond School in Alexandria. He also serves as shop manager during "Youth Run the Shop Days" at the Phoenix compound. He's the captain of Team Phoenix, the racing squad, often leads community rides, and  serves as the Youth Advisory Council President.

There is absolutely no doubt that Phoenix Bikes is helping to build leaders. Noe is very effective in his leadership roles because one of his key missions is to make meetings fun and more importantly, he wants to make sure everyone feels welcome and has a platform to be heard.

Bringing an activity like riding or even mechanics into a school brings with it a unique experience for some kids who may otherwise feel left out. For a student who isn't an athlete on a team, they sometimes miss that camaraderie a team provides and of course learning to work together toward a common goal.

Robel was introduced to Phoenix Bikes at TJ Middle School back in 2014. He earned his first bike, outgrew it, and earned a replacement. He grew into racing, both mountain and road bikes. He is a strong member of Team Phoenix serving as role model to the younger riders coming through the shop.

Robel also participates in the Phoenix Saturday rides where they often incorporate community service within the ride. He has volunteered with BfW during collection events we've had in Arlington. Robel joined Phoenix this summer in an advanced mechanics camp. He proves day after day he is strong both on and off the bike. 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Team Phoenix

This year Arlington was home to the National Youth Bike Summit which welcomed bike advocates of all ages from across the country and beyond. Our own Phoenix Bikes hosted the event including setting up key speakers, some, young mechanics from their own shop.

The summit brings minds and passions together to help build a bike friendly future. Involving our youth seemed like a logical step in this began the YOUTH Bike Summit. Involving Phoenix Bikes in that was, well, a no-brainer.

Phoenix Bikes engages the youth around Arlington by giving them one of the coolest after school hang outs around. It's much more than just learning how to use tools to work on bikes however. These young mechanics also learn valuable life skills like problem solving, teamwork, processing, networking and communicating.

Samara is a sophomore at H-B Woodlawn and was one of the speakers this past weekend at the Summit. She hooked up with Phoenix after participating in a school club associated with the organization. She liked learning about bikes and working with the tools so much she continued working with Phoenix through their after school opportunities at the shop.

Now a youth mechanic at Phoenix Bikes, Samara earned her way up the ranks, improving her ride along the way. Students who come through the program have the ability to learn and earn, building bikes. One bike they fix up is donated into the community and the other they can keep for themselves. Samara now does more than ride, she races. A founding member of Team Phoenix, Samara races road, mountain, cyclocross- you name it, if it has wheels she's going to make them spin!

Samara is also very passionate about sharing her love of biking and racing with others so she was a natural fit to speak at the Summit. Besides sharing thoughts on racing Samara is also passionate about promoting cycling for everyone, most especially women.

Usman and Erik are also founding members of Team Phoenix and came up through the wrenching ranks of Phoenix Bikes. Like Samara, Erik joined Phoenix through a school program at Washington Lee High School. Erik knew all about Phoenix through his older brother Augustin.

Erik enjoys sharing his passion for cycling with new youth coming through the shop. He stands out as a leader by helping with repairs and mentoring new youth mechanics during busy days at the shop. Because of his comfort on the bike, he is also a great ride leader for community rides on the weekend.

Usman had a bit of a longer commute to Phoenix Bikes. Usman grew up in India where bikes are very popular, however, Usman never owned one. He definitely understands the connection between access and infrastructure. His father never let him ride further than 30 feet in front of his house because it wasn't safe.

At 13, Usman moved to the U.S. with his family. When he found out about Phoenix Bikes he 'moved in' making it a second home. He quickly earned his first bike through the program and then upgraded and tweaked until he was racing on the team. As more and more kids turned to racing, Phoenix Bikes answered by implemented a points for parts program that allows youth to upgrade their bike parts for work in the shop.

Usman is now racing for the local DT Racing team (as is Erik). He's only a sophomore at Wakefield High School, but recently started working at the local Trek Bicycle shop building bikes.

Monday, October 2, 2017

#YBS17: Shifting Gears

What is a Youth Bike Summit? Last time we introduced you to a local group of young writers who are also learning about bikes and becoming young riders. Some of those Story Riders will be attending the Youth Bike Summit this weekend...but what exactly is a youth bike summit?

Simply put it's the future of cycling. Every year Washington DC is home to the National Bike Summit, where businesses, organizations, advocates, bikers, and the like all gather to talk about ideas, plans, and facilities that worked or needed improvement in the grand scheme of making cycling safer and more accessible to everyone.

The one step that has propelled biking farther and faster than any other component is a change in ideas. And where is there an untapped resource of fresh ideas? The professionals of tomorrow.

In so many of our cities, cycling sat on a back burner when it came to laying out roads and bridges and sidewalks. Bike sharing was something that happened in other cities not our cities. But all of that is changing. People are riding bikes more and because of that our infrastructure must change to meet that shift.

Around the country there are many youth based bike organizations that teach mechanics, help kids earn bikes, and get young people out on our roads and more comfortable on bikes. These kids are the future of cycling and their numbers are growing. They are growing up, living and working in our cities, and they are using bikes on a daily basis. They are passionate about bikes, they are experiencing the challenges put in place by car-centric designers and engineers, and they have ideas. The Youth Bike Summit  connects them to like-minded allies and gives them a voice.

At this year's summit, youth and adults will come together to talk about issues immediately affecting youth and cycling, such as riding on trails, career opportunities in the bike industry, bike facilities on college campuses, etc. There is even a panel about relationships with law enforcement and how the bike can help bridge the gap in communication.

The bottom line is this, our youth will be the next drivers on the road, they may already be there. Educating them about the rights of cyclists will make them better drivers and make the roads safer for everyone. They may also be our future engineers designing our roads and communities. They most definitely will be tomorrow's advocates fighting to have our voices heard.

The Youth Bike Summit comes to Arlington this year and is being hosted by our own youth group Phoenix Bikes. This experience has helped introduce mature concepts to the youth in this program through something they all love, biking. It has brought them together to work as a team, to express their thoughts and ideas and come up with plans and just planning the event itself.

Several of them have been invited to speak at the conference. They will create a presentation, get up in front of a crowd, share their thoughts and answer questions. They will meet other inspired minds and share ideas and work together to change the future of cycling and possibility their communities.

This experience is more than encouraging youth to take an active, vocal role in their cycling futures, it's about maturing and growing into themselves. It's about figuring out that their opinions matter. It's also about learning how to effectively express themselves and make change happen. It's learning to come together and work together for a common goal; something we all could use a little more of in our lives.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Featured Volunteer: Linda Hansen

Linda Hansen and Jackie Colonna in 2013
"I first met Linda Hansen maybe seven years ago when I first started working with Bikes for the World. That was four offices and six warehouses ago. I guess maybe we've both been around for a while," remembers Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess.

BUT, Linda predates BfW staff by just as many years. In fact she predates Bikes for the World itself! Linda and Keith started working together in 1997 back when we were working with Pedals for Progress.

She and Muriel Grim got together and started brain storming on their first ever bike collection with St Mary of Sorrows and its community. That was maybe 2,000 bikes ago.

For Linda, it didn't make sense to keep this tucked away within the pews of St. Mary's. It takes a village and she intended to reach out across parishes to recruit the village. Throughout the years they brought together Burke Presbyterian, Accotink Unitarian Universalist, Lord of Life Lutheran, and St. George's Methodist to work on this common vision. Her mission was simple: people helping people.

Linda also recruited other collection managers to take over for her after her initial efforts. And when I say initial, I'm talking half a decade or more as collection manager. This is one of the critical parts of keeping a successful collection going. Not only recruiting dedicated volunteers but also moving them into the management position. Not passing the torch successfully has been the undoing for several of our long standing collections that have been with us since the beginning. Finding someone to take over as collection manager is key to keeping a collection point alive.

And Linda made that transition seamless. This doesn't mean she moved on, she is still very much involved in this annual collection at St Mary's; she just prefers to hang in the shadows. And here we are shining a spotlight on her!

"But going back to when I first met Linda...I had just come on as Office Manager and Linda needed something from us. She said, I'll be right over. And when I came out to meet her she instantly grabbed me and gave me a huge hug. That's just who she is. And no doubt, that's why she's been able to keep that amazing cast of characters around the collection all these years."

Over the years St Mary's remained a consistent supporter of Bikes for the World, both in bike donations and financially. Their support has allowed us to affect thousands of lives around the world. Linda tells us it's really a win-win relationship; nobody really capitalizes it's just true giving and sharing.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Story Riders

Meet Fairfax County's talented crew known around Willston Community Center as the Story Riders. This exciting pilot program has participants pushing pedals and pens. They are learning about bikes, the community, writing, and yes, even alliteration.

In an age when adults joke about cursive being a sort of secret coded language today's kids could never decipher, this unique program focused on writing is a breath of fresh air to parents. Just getting a child out of a computer game or device is a welcomed respite to many moms and dads.

Willston sits in the heart of the community is serves. The kids in the program all know each other, often from the neighborhood, occasionally because they are somehow related. Many of them are from El Salvador and all of them call English a second or even third language.

This is a tight knit community with moms, dads, even abuelas who are very active in what's going on at Willston. When they found out about this new program called Story Riders it wasn't long before the slots filled up.

Story Riders combines bikes, community and literary skills into one interlacing program. Through interactions with local bike groups such as Bikes for the World, Phoenix Bikes, and Bikenetic, the kids are learning about bikes, team work, community awareness, and writing and interviewing skills.

Many ESL students often struggle to fully grasp the idiosyncrasies in the English language. Many kids in general struggle with communication whether that be oral or print. Story Riders tackles all of that in one stroke, okay two; one stroke of the pen and the other a pedal stroke.

Through a combined effort with our partnership with Bikenetic bike shop of Falls Church, Bikes for the World has donated some of our bikes to Story Riders. "It's always exciting to find a program where we can donate bikes locally and in this case many of them are donated in Falls Church and will stay right here in Falls Church," says Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess of BfW.

"Another thing that is totally awesome about this program is the academic aspect of what they are doing. They are taking something fun like bikes and applying it to learning about vocabulary, confidence, interacting with adults, note taking, and engaging and expressing their ideas. Some of those things are pretty boring by themselves or even challenging, like approaching an adult and asking questions. Tying all of it together with something tangible in their community, like bikes and groups like Phoenix and BfW, makes it not even seem like learning."

Yvette visited Willston this week and introduced Bikes for the World. But the kids already knew a lot about what we do because they had researched the website. They came prepared with questions, like why did Keith Oberg start BfW and how do the bikes travel overseas. They asked thoughtful, prepared questions, ones that weren't just yes and no answers. They listened and took notes.

Now the kids are working together in teams to come up with a story about BfW from the notes they took during the interview session with Yvette. At the end of the program they will put together all of their stories from all the groups who visit (like Phoenix and Bikenetic) to publish a book.

Oh yeah, and what about the bikes? Well, they are learning a lot there too. Each Story Rider receives a bike and will learn how to ride. They take a little time each week perfecting their riding skills (along with their writing skills) and learn about bike safety. Thanks to Phoenix Bikes, the kids will attend the National Youth Summit here in Arlington in October where they will learn more about how to become strong cycling advocates.

Staying physically active promotes learning and gets those creative juices flowing. And the bikes are a motivational tool to not only get the students engaged weekly, but to stay commitment in the project. At the end of program the participants will not only have a great written record of their experience but they will all get to keep their bikes as well. And hopefully they will all keep riding...and writing!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

What a Trek!

This blue Trek has had a long and happy life. This bike belonged to Wendy and she learned how to jump logs, scream through streams, and even how to fall not-so-gracefully on many a mountain trail. It's been to the hills of West Virginia, the beaches of Cape Cod, even across the ferry and into the city streets of Boston.

After upgrading her ride with a better mountain bike we converted this one for a more urban experience and kept it going for our jaunts into DC. After time we bought a hybrid and this trusty Trek hung unused in the shed for many years. After learning of a shipment heading to students in the Philippines Wendy finally found the courage to say goodbye to a very good friend of many years, "It just made sense; this bike was still in great shape, it's why I held on to it. But I wasn't using it anymore and I saw the benefit it could bring someone overseas."

And so the Trek journeys on. Within months, Wendy's old bike found a new home in a very different environment.

This Trek now belongs to Danilo, a junior at Concepcion Integrated School in San Simon, Pampanga Philippines. Rather than taking up space in our shed it is now improving Danilo's life allowing him to stay in school, get an education, and follow his dreams of becoming a police officer.

Danilo is the son of a vegetable farmer and housewife. He wants to become a policeman so that he can aid and protect his community. He realizes the value of an education but struggles to help support his family while staying in school due to the long commute.

Wendy's old bike will enable him to travel to school more efficiently, saving him time and energy. Many kids his age are forced to drop out of school when the family is faced with the choice of sending a teen to school or putting him to work in the fields. With this bike, Danilo will be able to save time on his commute to school AND still help his father out in the fields.

Before becoming a bike beneficiary, Danilo used to walk to school with his younger brother. The trip took Danilo 90 minutes on foot but now he can roll to school in a quarter of the time.

Every morning before school, Danilo heads to the cabbage fields his father tends and helps water the crops. Given the extreme heat in the Philippines, Danilo has to return to the fields immediately after school to water the crops again. The money he earns is shared with his family to help with expenses.

Now, with his bike, Danilo can make the trips to school and the fields much faster, giving him more time to devote to school, work, and after a long busy day, some much needed rest.

But given his desire to serve and protect...Danilo doesn't stop there. With the hours saved every day Danilo not only helps his family, but also the bike beneficiaries enrolled in the program. Danilo enjoys leading the community rides aimed at improving riding skills and teaching road safety to all the beneficiaries.

His leadership qualities shine through during these training rides and throughout the repair workshops at the school. He also stepped up to help build the bike room at the school. His bike coordinator reports that Danilo was always ready to do whatever job was needed whether that was mixing cement or laying the bricks for the walls. He is a very active volunteer in the program and always met everyone with a smile on his face.

"I am so happy that Danilo can use my old bike to stay in school. It is admirable that he wants to give back to his community by becoming a police officer. I'm also impressed how much he gives back to this program and the students who receive the bikes we donate. It makes so much more sense to give our old bikes a new home especially when we aren't using them anymore. Enjoy the ride Danilo!" Wendy, previous Trek owner, generous Trek donor said. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Featured Volunteer: Lucas Kramer

These kids above are some of our Filipino beneficiaries from Batangas Talahib Pandayan National High School and they are personally saying thank you to our Featured Volunteer of the month Lucas Kramer. So who the heck is Lucas and what makes him so special?

I actually know Lucas's parents from way back, but I only just met Lucas at the Alternative Gift Fair in Takoma Park a few years ago. He was there to make a donation to Bikes for the World and several other organizations. We actually see him every year when he donates part of his allowance to help kids in the Philippines get bikes and tubes. And well we think that's pretty darn cool. And so did they. And they wanted to share their gratitude.

Last year Bikes for the World had to sit the Alternative Gift Fair out to give other non-profits a chance so we didn't see Lucas there. But lucky us, he needed a few volunteer hours for school and he turned up in our warehouse just last month! Not only was this kid smashing open his piggy bank to support us, but he also wanted to put a little muscle into it.

When his mom challenged him to consider donating some of his allowance during his volunteer visit he didn't hesitate to open up his charity jar and dump out the contents, entirely! "As a parent, what I love is how proud he was to bring you that envelope of money. He's beginning to connect the dots of giving wealth AND time to causes he believes in," reported Karla.

And that he did. The whole family rolled up their sleeves and grabbed wrenches to help us prep some bikes to ship overseas. And we told the kids in the Philippines about that too and again they were like, WOW! that guy's younger than us and he's in there helping us get bikes?! They made a video and sent that our way to share with Lucas.

Dave said, "that left the kid speechless, introspective and then super-motivated to volunteer again!" And after Lucas saw the video he was all smiles, "I feel like such a good person right now."

The cool thing about our volunteer opportunities is that they are great for families. It's a fun activity that gives back and truly makes a difference around the world. For the Kramers it was a good team effort that allowed Lucas to fully participate despite some physical limitations. Like many kids that come through our warehouse he struggled with the occasional rusty pedal which his mom was able to help torque off in a pinch.

Lucas is your typical pre-teen boy. He loves playing video games and building things with Legos. His favorite classes in school are art, lunch and PE. He's crazy about dogs. He loves to eat, Thai, 100%. He likes the beach, loves to swim, and enjoys riding motorcycle with his dad.

But Lucas never learned how to ride a bike, it's a small regret his mom shared with us. He likes being out on the bike with them but they worried about the hills and torque necessary to pedal a bike through an obstacle. You see unlike other kids who come through our warehouse Lucas truly does have a bigger challenge on those rusty parts that require a little more muscle than others; Lucas has Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Because September is Duchenne Awareness Month we wanted to bring you Lucas's whole story. In our warehouse we will be showing our muscle in support of Lucas and we are asking you to do the same. September 7th is World Duchenne Awareness Day and we are asking you to support Lucas by becoming more aware of his disease.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy affects 1 in every 3,500 live male births which accumulates to about 20,000 new cases each year world wide. Duchenne results in progressive loss of strength and is caused by a mutation in the gene that encodes for dystrophin. In layman’s terms, because dystrophin is absent, muscle cells are easily damaged. This slowly happens which can lead to medical problems that eventually affect the heart and lungs. Although Duchenne can be passed from parent to child, approximately 35% of cases occur because of a random spontaneous mutation. In other words, it can affect anyone. There is no cure for Duchenne.

What does this mean for Lucas? We ask you to watch the video below to learn more about this disease. Basically, due to the lack of production of a specific protein called dystrophin, he does not build normal muscle. Weight bearing physical activities and going up & down stairs causes scar tissue to build up in his muscles, most notable in his thick calves. He can do permanent irreversible damage by doing anything that is weight bearing.

Back to that original question of this post...who the heck is Lucas and what makes him so special? Well, as I stated earlier I am biased, so you can judge that for yourself. But if you've ever seen his electric smile, been on the opposing end of his quick wit, or exchanged commentary on whether dinner was spicy enough...I suspect you already know the answer to that question!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Girl With a Vision

This is Honey Jane, a determined young woman from a remote island in the Philippines. From her small village in Mindanao the opportunities available to kids her age seemed light years away.

In fact, her home city of Misamis Oriental might well have felt like living on another planet when looking at a map of her sprawling country of islands. Manila, the main city, was more than a day away and involved a trip by car and boat. The cost of a plane ticket was out of the question.

And yet, even as a young girl, Honey set her sights on what lay beyond Mindanao. At 14, Honey hopped on a boat and came to the main island of Luzon to see what she could find in the big city. While she was living with her cousin in Angono, she learned about the local arts school, Regional School for the Arts Angono (RLSAA).

Honey wasn't an artist. At this point she had even dropped out of school and was no longer a student. But her cousin's neighbor told her about RLSAA and how they offered free tuition. The school was also committed to re-enrolling out of school youth just like Honey.

Right about this time, Bikes for the Philippines (BfP) was being introduced into the school system. And out-of-school youth had become a focal point for the program. Getting students back in school earning diplomas was exactly what this education focused program was all about.

Len Carbonnel is the mathematics teacher at RLSAA and also the BfP bike coordinator for the school. When she heard Honey's story she couldn't get her a bike fast enough...and ultimately, back in class.

It wasn't long before Honey's grades started improving. At the beginning of this year, her senior year, she was recognized for her continued improvement. She loved her school, her family of bike beneficiaries, and her fellow photographers with whom she learned, played, and enjoyed life.

At graduation, Honey was all smiles as she clutched her diploma in one hand and her newly earned bicycle in the other. This girl had taken on the world and came out on top.

But now what? She was still the girl from a poor family on the far side of the Philippines. Opportunity still felt slightly out of reach.

Thanks to Bikes for the Philippines Honey still had a home around bikes. She was so thankful for the doors BfP opened for her she wanted to give back to the program after graduation. She joined the crew and volunteered to pay it forward. She became a mechanic, trainer, and overall mentor to younger cyclists, just like she had been.

Honey continued to impress everyone around her. This was a selfless woman who never gave up. She was clearly willing to learn anything and keep trying until she excelled at it. This would surely take her far in life.

Honey found out about a scholarship to a vo-tech school that would pay for her tuition, room and board, and any added fees associated with her training. Many of these scholarships actually go unfilled due to incomplete applications. But with the help of someone Honey met through the BfP program she successfully completed the application and turned it in. And she waited.

Then just this week, Honey took her first plane ride when she flew from Misamis to Manila for an interview to be accepted into the scholarship program. And within 24 hours, Honey found out she was one of the eleven scholars accepted into the program. She will now continue her education at the Technical Training Center where she will learn Mechatronics Servicing.

And yes, she is absolutely still biking!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Pop Quiz


Joseph Tetteh is the first teacher to arrive at school every morning.

TRUE. He is now that he has a bicycle. Joseph is a teacher from Gomoa Abonko, Ghana and he received his bicycle this year from our partner Village Bicycle Project.

Joseph used to walk about five miles a day to and from work. He was often late and struggled to complete his daily assignments. He had very little time to interact with students one on one.

With his new bicycle he saves a lot of time and energy on his commute, leaving him more time to devote to his students and class work. In fact, last term, Joseph was one of the district's highest performing teachers.


Both Isata and Ramatullai are:

A Truant Officers
B. Bus Drivers
C. Teachers
D. All of the Above

The answer is D, All of the Above. Ramatullai (foreground) and Isata (back) both teach at Bakhita Kindergarten School in Lunsar, Sierra Leone. And they both play an active role in making sure the community youngsters are where they need to!

Rumatullai uses her bike twice a week to visit the homes of children who should be in school but aren't. By making these home visits, teachers are able to get to know the parents while checking in on the students and making sure they get their butts to school!


Describe the connection between a bicycle, attendance, and education- using a teacher in your example:

Isata also lives and teaches in Lunsar, 120 miles from the capital of Freetown. Until Village Bicycle Project visited Lunsar and Isata enrolled in a Learn 2 Ride program she had never been on a bicycle before.

Isata uses her bike to visit kids who aren't showing up for class. But she takes it one step further. For those truant tots living within a two mile radius of the school, don't be surprised if Isata picks you up, throws you over the top tube, and pedals you to class herself!

Isata understands the struggle these kids have living in this area, but she also knows the value of a good education. Because many of the families in the community are very poor, even the youngest members have to pull their share. Many school aged children are forced to stay home to help with chores. This allows their older siblings to help in the fields to earn more money for the family, but it also keeps the youngest kids from learning.

When Miss Isata shows up on the bike to pick up kids, she shortens the walking commute time so significantly that she is able to get some of those closer students to school a few times a week. That's one dedicated educator! Bikes + Books = SMART.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Johan: Costa Rican Farmer

Continuing our series, One Bike, Two Wheels, Four Revolutions we take a look at how one bicycle often affects up to four lives (or more!). Here we introduce a new bike owner who received a bike from our last container shipped from our Charleston location. 

But we also bring you the story of one beneficiary who benefited from the bike project, without even receiving a bicycle. Through our local partner FINCA Costa Rica we are improving the lives of small business owners and in turn entire communities. This micro-finance project works with communities to establish Community Credit Enterprises (ECC) that offer small business loans to its members. Those loans help develop local business such as cattle farming, agriculture, commerce, or services.
Jakob and Johan

Johan Leandro has spent most of his life farming the lands in his hometown of San Cristobal Norte Desamparados, San Jose Costa Rica. He provides for his family by harvesting vegetables and selling them to local vendors in the town market.

Johan asked for a $1,800 loan to increase his crop production. He will use the money to buy more seeds focusing on a better quality seed. He hopes to double or triple his yield of tomatoes, green beans, and sweet peppers.

This increase in his crops will allow him to sell more produce to vendors, bring home more money for his family, and improve their quality of life.

The loans through the ECC are made possible because of bike sales by the co-op. The bikes are received through shipments from Bikes for the World and placed by FINCA Costa Rica based on need and type of bike. The members of the receiving co-op prepare the bikes for sale and the proceeds fund the community business loans.

Jakob picked out his bike from our container donated this summer through Bikes for the World Charleston. Bikes were collected through a statewide effort among United Methodist churches in South Carolina.

In our One Bike, Two Wheels series we look at how Celia benefited from our bike donations by expanding her motorcycle repair shop. Read more here...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Celia: Motorcycle Repair Shop

Continuing our series, One Bike, Two Wheels, Four Revolutions we take a look at how one bicycle often affects up to four lives (or more!). Here we introduce a new bike owner who received a bike from our last container shipped from our Charleston location.

But we also bring you the story of one beneficiary who benefited from the bike project, without even receiving a bicycle. Through our local partner FINCA Costa Rica we are improving the lives of small business owners and in turn entire communities. This micro-finance project works with communities to establish Community Credit Enterprises (ECC) that offer small business loans to its members. Those loans help develop local business such as cattle farming, agriculture, commerce, or services.

Diana and Celia

Celia Reyes is a single mother of two. The family lives in Upala where Celia has owned and operated a motorcycle repair shop for the last four years. Celia turned to her local ECC recently for a loan to grow her repair business.

Her loan of $1,800 will help her offer a wider range of services within the shop. She can now buy more spare parts for repairs as well as to sell to customers doing their own repairs. The increase in business could lead to hiring more mechanics improving their lives as well as her own.

Little Diana is very excited about her new baby blue Schwinn her family purchased from our last container that arrived this summer via Bikes for the World Charleston. She likes all the pink accents, especially the basket and streamers. She will now be able to ride with some of the other kids in her community who also just received or already had bikes.

Through our donated bikes, rural ECCs are able to raise funds for a general pot of money that can be used by members to augment or improve their businesses that serve the communities where they live. Members who purchase the refurbish bikes are also able to improve their own lives with more affordable, reliable transportation for school, work, or errands.

Find out how Maria used her loan to improve the lives of her sheep in our One Bike, Two Wheels series...

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Maria: Costa Rican Sheep Breeder

Continuing our series, One Bike, Two Wheels, Four Revolutions we take a look at how one bicycle often affects up to four lives (or more!). Here we introduce a new bike owner who received a bike from our last container shipped from our Charleston location.
But we also bring you the story of one beneficiary who benefited from the bike project, without even receiving a bicycle. Through our local partner FINCA Costa Rica we are improving the lives of small business owners and in turn entire communities. This micro-finance project works with communities to establish Community Credit Enterprises (ECC) that offer small business loans to its members. Those loans help develop local business such as cattle farming, agriculture, commerce, or services.

Maria and Yalitza

Maria Auxiliadora and her husband rely on their sheep breeding business for income. The young couple started breeding sheep over four years ago and the money they earn helps pay for their continuing education. Maria received a loan from her local ECC to help build new pens for their sheep.

Maria, seen above with one of her less-than-camera-shy sheep, lives in Grifo Alto de Puriscal in San Jose Costa Rica. This is a very beautiful region known for their coffee and tobacco farms. It is, however, also plagued by deforestation which affects production, habitat, and the climate. Over 80% of the population lives in a rural area.

Yalitza lives in a small town known as Bijagua just south of Upala. Her family purchased this pink bicycle from our shipment donated to her community this summer. The proceeds from the sale will augment the pool of money available to the community for small business loans, like the one that helped Maria's family.

Learn about Plutarco, and his pulperia and how our donated bikes helped him gear up his stock to better serve his community...

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Plutarco: Costa Rican Pulperia

Continuing our series, One Bike, Two Wheels, Four Revolutions we take a look at how one bicycle often affects up to four lives (or more!). Here we introduce a new bike owner who received a bike from our last container shipped from our Charleston location.

But we also bring you the story of one beneficiary who benefited from the bike project, without even receiving a bicycle. Through our local partner FINCA Costa Rica we are improving the lives of small business owners and in turn entire communities. This micro-finance project works with communities to establish Community Credit Enterprises (ECC) that offer small business loans to its members. Those loans help develop local business such as cattle farming, agriculture, commerce, or services.
Emmanuel and Plutarco

Plutarco Sequeira
is also from Canalete, where Maria, Tonito, and Eduviges live. Plutarco and his wife own a small convenience store known as a pulperia. For four years they have been supplying the community with items such as food and cleaning supplies. Given the remoteness of Canalete, Plutarco's store is quite popular among his neighbors. They are able to dash in and pick up items without spending a lot of time walking all the way into town.

Plutarco asked his local ECC for a $1,000 loan so that he could increase his stock with a wider variety of items. The loan allowed Plutarco to purchase more merchandise for his customers. They can now buy most of their needs right there in Canalete rather than spending time and energy walking to the next bigger town where more goods and services are sold.

Plutarco and his wife now bring in more income to support their family's needs. They also provide a valuable service to the community which helps improve their lives as well.

It's through our bike donations that these ECCs raise capital for the community loans. Little Emmanuel received this bike from our last container when his family purchased it at the community warehouse. He will soon learn to ride to ride on two wheels just like the previous owner of this bike.

Friday, August 4, 2017

One Bike, Two Wheels, Four Revolutions

This story of change begins with the bike, but it doesn't end there. Our donated bikes are helping to improve lives in so many ways in Costa Rica it's hard to keep track of them all. 

For you, that bike you donated may represent memories of fun times on the trail, easy commutes to work, or a milestone in your child's life when she took her first solo ride toward independence.

In Costa Rica that one bike might represent a ticket to improved education for a student, a job for a local mechanic, a tool for a struggling family, and a financial loan to improve a small business. 

FINCA Costa Rica has been working with Bikes for the World since 2005 to bring bicycles into small rural villages to improve transportation needs. But that wasn't the final goal of bringing bikes to these communities. Find out how your donated bikes are changing lives on two wheels and off in this short series highlighting the stories of five local entrepreneurs.

Maria Ignacia lives in a community known as Canalete in Upala, Costa Rica. She is part of the Community Credit Enterprise (ECC) that our partner FINCA Costa Rica helped establish. The ECC has over 100 members and each member has the ability to apply for a small business loan to help improve their productivity. 

Our bikes serve as the capital needed to grant these loans to members of the co-op. If an ECC requests a container or partial shipment of bicycles they prep our donated bikes for use and sell them among the community or to their neighbors. Each bike is sold for between $10-100 depending on the quality of the bike. The proceeds then get folded into this general fund for use among the community to improve their businesses, or sometimes to get a new one started.

Maria applied for a loan to help build a chicken coop to protect her main source of income for her family...egg production. She has been raising chickens and collecting eggs for the past year. She collects the eggs and sells them throughout the community to help provide for her and her family. 

FINCA helped facilitate the $1,800 loan she needed to build a small chicken coop. Her chickens are now better protected from the elements and their productivity is much improved. Maria now has more money for her family even while she works to pay back the loan to the ECC.

Tonito and Eduviges

Tonito and Eduviges are not related but both live in the same community as Maria, Canalete. Both received bikes from our shipment to this community in 2014. We had a chance to meet them when we visited the community that fall and even rode with Tonito through the community. 

Eduviges bought her bicycle through the co-op and she uses it to commute to work. Eduviges works on a lychee farm and used to get up at 5am to walk the two hours to the lychee field. She can now cover the same ground in less than half the time, saving time and energy.

Tonito is from a very poor family that lives in Nicaragua. They sent Tonito to Canalete to live with his grandfather in hopes of giving him a better life. The co-op members decided to give Tonito a bicycle and helmet to reward him for getting such good grades in school. 

Tonito was also on hand to help unload the bikes that were donated to the community and helped organize and prep them for sale. The sale of those bikes, including Eduviges's, may have helped provide the loan to Maria for her business.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Featured Volunteer: Margie Ligon

This month we head back down 95 South to our partners in Charleston, to recognize this month's volunteer Margie Ligon (here on the left).

Margie worked with the Youth Ministry at Philadelphia United Methodist Church in Fort Mill, South Carolina....barely....this is nearly on the North Carolina line, quite a distance from our warehouse in Charleston.

Here at home in DC, if someone had contacted us hoping to do a collection nearly 200 miles from our warehouse HQ we may have been forced to turn down the offer.   The strain on our resources may have been too great.

But when an entire United Methodist community comes together and offers a statewide tend to pay attention and make exceptions.

And that is what brought Philadelphia UM and Margie Ligon and us together. Margie heard about Bikes for the World through a state UM conference where their Bishop offered up a challenge. He was asking each district to collect XX number of bikes (we don't know the actual number, but as Margie tells us it was not aggressive enough for her).

"I felt like my church by itself could collect what he was expecting an entire district of 66 churches to collect," thought Margie. Never one to sit back and wait, Margie cut to the chase, she contacted us directly here in DC and said, how do I get our church on your calendar?

We connected Margie with our area coordinator Paul Keefer in Charleston and the rest is sort of history.

She recruited the youth volunteers you see above to help collect and prep the used donated bikes. She also engaged the Youth Ministry in a fundraiser to help raise money to buy new bikes to supplement the donation...there was no way she was falling short of the Bishop's goal.

In fact Margie waged her own goal within their congregation, 200-300 bikes. What did Philadelphia UM end up collecting this spring? 289 bikes.

Charleston BfW bikes in Costa Rica
The youth group along with assistance from the men's group bought and assembled 114 brand new bikes to be donated among two BfW partners, CESTA in El Salvador and MiBici/FINCA Costa Rica.  But the outreach in the community also brought in 175 donated used bikes!

To quote BfW Coordinator Paul Keefer, "Margie don't mess around."

Those nearly 300 bikes were shared among two containers shipped in April and June from our location in Charleston. The first arrived in El Salvador and the second was shared among community groups in rural Costa Rica.

CESTA trained mechanic Cristian Martinez
In Costa Rica, bikes were sold to rural residents needing transportation for work and school. Money raised will help support many local businesses in the form of loans to increase production.

In El Salvador new mechanics like Cristian learn skills that will help them professionally to earn more for their families.

"I learned new skills, things I never did before, earn money, and also encouraging me to realize I could take on new challenges in other fields," Cristian Martinez.

Margie moved on to First United Methodist Church of Belmont North Carolina where she was recruited to help the Youth Ministry there. From what we've seen at BfW when Margie puts her mind, heart, and soul into something she affects positive results. We have no doubt there are great things in store for Belmont. And we hope to partner with Margie again soon.