There’s no question that bikes can provide independence and livelihood, especially in the developing world. World Bicycle Relief was founded on that exact idea, using bicycles to assist in poverty relief and disaster recovery initiatives.
Founded in 2005, WBR has an enormous amount of industry support, and for good reason: since its inception, the organization has distributed over 75,000 bicycles and trained over 700 field mechanics.
After seeing their efforts highlighted in With My Own Two Wheels, a film that we recently saw at Mountainfilm, there’s no doubt that WBR is doing amazing work.
We caught up with Matt Pierce to learn about WBR and the organization’s work.
What inspired the launch of World Bicycle Relief?
World Bicycle Relief was founded in January, 2005 in response to The Indian Ocean Tsunami. Cofounders F.K. Day and wife Leah Missbach Day traveled to Sri Lanka and found an acute need for basic transportation amongst those individuals struggling to rebuild their homes and their lives.
The need was for simple, sustainable transportation. At the time, F.K. Day had nearly 20 years of experience as head of product development at SRAM Corporation and connections with some the worlds brightest minds in bicycle engineering. World Bicycle Relief was founded by SRAM Corporation and industry leaders to address this need.
“Look for solutions, not problems.” -Dan Eldon.
And what’s that solution? One of them just happens to be bikes. Check out the trailer to With My Own Two Wheels, an inspiring film about just why bikes are having an impact in all kinds of communities around the world.
Every Wednesday on Ditch Your Car we’ll be bringing you just another reason to spend more time on two wheels. Be it a photo, a statistic or an inspirational video, we want to keep reminding you about why riding is great!
Welcome to Pedaling Change! There’s a lot of good work being done in the world of bikes, to alternative transportation advocacy to international development. To highlight some of the great action that’s going on out there, once a month we’ll be profiling a non-profit in the bike world to look at just how they’re working to make positive change.
“You can go anywhere.”
Dedicated to providing bikes to young people in developing countries, 88Bikes is certainly built on the idea of empowerment. Remember the feeling you had the first time you successfully pedaled around by yourself? That sense of freedom? Imagine bringing that sense of freedom and exhilaration to communities that have been challenged by obstacels such as war, poverty, disease and conflict. You can imagine the joy that a bike can bring.
Another key component of 88Bikes is that the organization is focused on one-to-one philanthropy, empowering not only the recipient, but the donor as well. $88 covers the approximate cost of a bike in developing countries, and donors are not only asked to provide a photo of themselves to accompany their bike, but even encouraged to take part in volunteer trips to hand deliver bikes to the donation sites, making the donation process come full circle.
Founded only 4 years ago, 88Bikes has already a long list of accomplishments. They’ve delivered bikes to Peru, Cambodia, Mongolia and Uganda and they’re currently working on their 88Bikes Villages project which will reach out to children in rural locations. Over 700 bikes have been donated, and even after a quick look at some of the organization’s photos of smiling and laughing children on their new bikes, it’s easy to see why using sustainable transportation to empower youth is such a powerful thing.
We caught up with one of 88Bikes’ founders, Dan Austin, to learn a little more about the organization and the work they’re doing.
What have some of 88bikes’ biggest accomplishments over the last year been?
Getting bikes into the hands of kids who’ve been through really difficult challenges, in really rural areas, has been very fulfilling. Kids who’ve survived slavery in rural India, Ghana, Nepal and elsewhere are now using bikes to help reconnect with some of the lost fragments of their childhood. To see these heroic kids who’ve been through so much smile wide and take off on their new rides, that’s a good feeling.
Today we’re honored to feature this guest post by 88 Bikes Founder Dan Austin.
While galavanting through the hinterlands of Mongolia a couple of weeks ago, my brother Jared and I spotted an idyllic ger, set on a hillside, lit up in the sun. We hiked through the stubbled grass and were met halfway up the hill by three teenage girls, a couple little kids and an old fellow who looked like he’d been squinting into the sun across these eternal fields for the better part of eighty years. I asked him the question I always ask when traveling with 88bikes, but didn’t expect an answer. I was shocked when, after our fixer translated my question, the nomad’s rutted face broke into a huge grin.
Tell me about your first bike.
Can bikes change the world? That’s a question we like to ask a lot.
Here’s yet another example of bikes making a significant difference, this time via World Bicycle Relief. Last week in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote a pretty touching piece about the effect that WBR is having in the developing world.
Early this year I wrote a column from Zimbabwe that focused on five orphans who moved in together and survive alone in a hut.
The eldest, Abel, a scrawny and malnourished 17-year-old, would rise at 4 o’clock each morning and set off barefoot on a three-hour hike to high school. At nightfall, Abel would return to function as surrogate father: cajoling the younger orphans to finish their homework by firelight, comforting them when sick and spanking them when naughty.
When I asked Abel what he dreamed of, he said “a bicycle” — so that he could cut the six hours he spent walking to and from school and, thus, take better care of the younger orphans. Last week, Abel got his wish. A Chicago-based aid organization, World Bicycle Relief, distributed 200 bicycles to students in Abel’s area who need them to get to school. One went to Abel.
The initiative is a pilot. If it succeeds and finds financing, tens of thousands of other children in Zimbabwe could also get bicycles to help them attend school.
“I’m happy,” Abel told me shyly — his voice beaming through the phone line — when I spoke to him after he got his hands on his bicycle.
WBR has given out more than 70,000 bicycles so far. But why are bikes so powerful when it comes to development? As Kristof puts it, “it’s an example of an aid intervention that puts a system in place, one that is sustainable and has local buy-in, in hopes of promoting education, jobs and a virtuous cycle out of poverty.”
What are your favorite bike organizations?
You can read the whole article here.