People living in developing countries often have no access to public transport. Frequently there just isn’t a public transport system, especially in remote, rural areas, or they cannot afford it. This means many hours spent walking to and from school, leaving little time to study in daylight. In some areas, sick people can spend days walking to a clinic. The local health workers also waste valuable time walking to villages in their area. People spend hours walking to work, fetching wood and carrying water.
A bike can save a life by quickly summoning help. Having the freedom of mobility changes lives. Social studies done in Uganda, Tanzania and Sri Lanka have shown that having a bicycle can increase the income of a family by as much as 35%. This is a tremendous help at grass roots level and can assist people to get out of the poverty trap. There are many charity organisations worldwide which send new or second hand bicycles to people in need.
WHEELS 4 LIFE
Wheels 4 Life have donated almost 7,000 bikes in twenty different countries. They try to buy the bikes locally not only to support the local economy but it obviously cuts down on unnecessary shipping and storage costs and, of course, there will be spare parts available. As they expand, they plan to buy container loads of bikes from China. They are proud of the fact that between 90% and 95% of money donated goes directly into the purchase of bikes. They have also had donations such as riding helmets, water bottles, reflective cycling vests, bicycle pumps, sunglasses and riding gear from corporates around the world.Wheels 4 Life works with local organisations who help them identify which people will benefit most from receiving a bike.
They look at the possibility that having a bike will enable someone to be employed or allow a child to go to the nearest school which is 20 miles away. The criteria they use for choosing bikes generally include sturdiness and ability to fix the bikes easily, as well as readily available spare parts. The bikes must also have some sort of luggage rack. The one most commonly bought by Wheels 4 Life is the California Bike which costs between $97 and $150 depending on the country in which it is bought.
WORLD BICYCLE RELIEF
One of the founder brothers of Sram, (the second largest bicycle component manufacturer in the world) Frederick R. W. Day, affectionately known as F.K., has set himself the task of trying to educate the world regarding the enormous economic and social benefits which can be achieved by owning a bicycle.
Day’s story began when he and his wife, Leah, visited Sri Lanka after the devastating 2004 tsunami, to see what he could do to help the country get back on its feet. He knew that bicycles would help many people but also realised that to just ship bikes from the States was not the answer. The bicycles needed to be suitable for the tough conditions of the countryside and they needed to be easily maintained. Day’s answer to this problem was to get together with a Sri Lankan manufacturer and design a bike which was the answer to Sri Lanka’s roads.
A study produced five years after the tsunami showed that 90% of people who had been given bikes, used them to earn a living. Day ended up producing 24,450 bicycles at under $100 each and it was mainly Sram’s customers who donated money for the project. Day was invited to Zambia in 2006 by Bruce Wilkinson who was involved in a World Vision project which was educating villagers on how to treat people with HIV/AIDS. Wilkinson had bought 1,000 bikes and distributed them to the AIDS-care teachers but now most of the bikes were ruined and had been dumped by the roadside. This was the scene he showed Day. Day immediately got to work and designed a much stronger bike which was suited to the Zambian potholes.
Day has successfully put 30,000 sturdy bicycles into Zambia and has even trained mechanics, so most areas are covered. Health care workers and students get a free bike and their first bike service is free, thereafter they need to pay or learn to service their bike. The company which manufactures the bikes even exports to northern Europe, and Day is hoping that eventually it will become a profitable business without the bicycles purchased by World Bicycle Relief. By the end of 2014, World Bicycle Relief had distributed over 200,000 bicycles and trained over 1,000 mechanics.
BICYCLES FOR HUMANITY
Bicycles for Humanity or B4H, proudly boasts that not one cent of money raised goes on admin or staff, it all goes to ensuring that people who are in desperate need of transport, get it. B4H has fifty chapters in various countries – Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and the States. B4H partners with organisations in developing countries to decide where the donated bicycles can have the greatest impact on the lives of the people living there. Bicycles for Humanity is a Canadian initiative and was started in 2005 by Pat and Brenda Montani. The idea was to send one container of bikes to Namibia. The initiative spread via word of mouth and other people within Canada asked to start chapters. By 2006 there were four chapters and five containers of bicycles had been sent overseas.
By the end of 2014, B4H had shipped over 100,000 bicycles to Africa, Mexico and Central America. Over 10 million bicycles end up in landfills every year. Many chapters have now erected signs at landfill sites, asking people to leave their cast off bikes in a special area, so they can be put to good use. B4H really wants the public in first world countries to be made aware of the impact one bicycle can have on a family in Africa and developing countries. B4H asks for people to give them their old bikes, preferably in working condition. These bikes are then shipped in a container with lots of spare parts. On arrival the container becomes the bicycle workshop and is called the bicycle empowerment centre. This not only gives local employment but also enables lucky bicycle recipients to have their bikes regularly serviced. If more than one container is shipped to the same destination, the extra containers will be used for other purposes; perhaps a school classroom or a shop. Each container, when shipped, costs around $12,000 and B4H say a donation of $25 will ship one bike to Africa. Other donations which are appreciated by B4H are soccer balls, sweaters and books which can be packed between the bikes, as they don’t like to waste any space in the containers.
RE-CYCLE – BIKES TO AFRICA
Merlin Matthews is the founder of Re-Cycle. He was studying management at the LSE (London School of Economics) and took over the reins of Dr. Bike. This was an honourary position bestowed upon bicycle savvy people by the Student’s Union. It meant that every Friday evening Matthews would teach people to fix their bikes in exchange for beers. One Friday evening, a Haitian lady explained to Matthews the need for bicycles in Haiti. He decided he could best serve this cause from the UK by recycling second hand bikes and fund raising. Matthews then learnt about ITDP, which is an American charity that has been doing the same thing in Haiti for a while. He wisely chose to partner with them and learn from their experiences.
Re-Cycle’s first big shipment was to South Africa at the request of ITDP, where they set up Afribike, an independent organisation which distributed bicycles in the country. Matthews of ReCycle says the organisation “is committed to improving life prospects through the provision of cheap, sustainable transport in Africa. We believe that bicycles offer people a route out of poverty and a means to improve their lives, giving them opportunities to travel to work and school. Bicycles can also be adapted to carry goods and passengers giving small scale farmers and traders the opportunity to reach customers further afield or take more produce to market.” Re-Cycle asks that people donate used bikes or £15, which is the cost of getting one bike to Africa.
RE-CYCLE CYCLES ROUND THE WORLD
On 22nd February Gary Taylor set off on a round the world cycle trip with the intention of raising money for Re-Cycle. He is closely adhering to the Guinness World Record rules and is doing to the trip totally unsupported. Taylor has always loved cycling and when he found himself unemployed and single but with a little money saved, he decided that there was no better time than now to cycle around the world. Taylor was asked why he chose Re-Cycle as his charity: “For me a big thing is that Re-Cycle are focused on more sustainable solutions, rather than just handouts. Re-Cycle help to train people in the areas they offer help which means that people there are enabled to make profitable businesses and become less dependent.”
PEDALS FOR PROGRESS
Pedals for Progress, or P4P, rescues bikes heading for landfills, repairs them and then sends them to countries that need them. P4P also adapts bikes so they can be used for other purposes such as rubbish collection, taxis or delivering produce. A spokesman for P4P said, “When we can establish a programme with an overseas partner, the bicycles take on an even greater significance – to keep the bikes working, maintenance is necessary.
Children and adults are trained in bicycle maintenance and repair, and the bicycles are sold within the community, fostering the development of a local economy. If a person would like to have a bicycle but cannot pay for it, that person has to work for the bicycle shop (and learn and new skill) in order to cover the cost of the bike.” P4P equip the bicycle shops with all tools, spares and oil, so all servicing can be done on the spot. One of P4P’s most unusual donation occurred in 2014, when they were approached by the Turtle Conservancy offices in New York.
They requested bikes for the rangers working for Paso Pacifico in south western Nicaragua. The bikes enabled the turtle rangers and the forest rangers to concentrate on protecting and monitoring the wildlife, rather than spending unnecessary hours walking to their destination over terrain which is either bone dry or a running river.
BIKES FOR THE WORLD
Bikes for the World was started in 2005 by Keith Oberg and this month, donated its 100,000th bike to Gerardo Jesus who lives in Costa Rica. Gerardo has worked exceptionally hard at school and won a scholarship to a bi-lingual school in another community. Unfortunately the distance was too great for Gerardo and he wasn’t about to take up his place. This is where Bikes for the World stepped in and gave Gerardo a bicycle, so he can now go to his new school and get a good start in life.
BIKES NOT BOMBS
Bikes Not Bombs is one of the oldest organisations involved in donating bikes to developing countries and to projects in the States. They began in 1984 and collect around 6,000 used bikes every year which are either sent to their partners in developing countries or used in the States for community projects. They encourage people to search their local newspapers and online adverts for giveaway bikes.
They suggest putting fliers in people’s post boxes asking for bikes which are gathering cobwebs in the garage. Bikes Not Bombs also suggest contacting estate agents, as they are in constant contact with people who are downsizing and may need to get rid of their bikes. Bikes Not Bombs is just another example of the tireless work thousands of people of doing all over the globe, in an effort to make a difference to someone’s life in the developing world.