World Bicycle Relief
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!
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.