Near and Far, Bikes Are Changing Lives

Photo: UNICEF Canada

All around the world, the bicycle is having a positive impact, especially on the lives of children. The latest direct mail donation request I received from UNICEF puts bicycles at the top of their list of things that can help children in developing countries. For those young people, a bike is far more than just a piece of sporting equipment. It gives them the mobility to go to school, carry goods to market, spend less time on chores such as fetching water or firewood, and not least of all, enjoy being a kid.

That positive impact has also been recognized by the financial magazine Barron’s, which named the Chicago-based World Bicycle Relief as one of the top 25 most-impactful philanthropists for 2010. Others on the list include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, William J. Clinton Foundation, Skoll Foundation and Oprah’s Angel Network. Significantly, the ranking is awarded to individuals and organizations whose contributions deliver lasting change.

Since 2005, World Bicycle Relief has distributed 71,416 improved-design, culturally-appropriate bicycles to students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in Asia and Africa.  These bicycles help students get to school, connect healthcare workers to people living with HIV & AIDS in rural areas and enable farmers to carry heavy loads and get to market with their goods.  These 71,416 bicycles have reached and improved the lives of 702,080 people.

“A bicycle in the U.S. is a recreational vehicle or an alternative form of transportation.  In developing countries a bicycle can mean the difference between getting to school, to a doctor or making a living or not.  Simple, sustainable mobility is one of the most un-recognized tools of development work there is,” says F.K. Day, president, World Bicycle Relief.  “Yet what we found in Africa was a fundamental gap in the market that wasn’t being filled — the availability of quality, sturdy and culturally appropriate bicycles to the millions of its residents living at the bottom of the market.”

Closer to home (if you live in Vancouver) the charitable organization Pedal Development Alternatives (disclosure: I am on the board of the organization) runs a number of programs to make cycling an affordable option for one and all. The Foundation’s free bike program helps individuals with barriers to traditional employment or other challenges gain mobility with a refurbished, safety-inspected bicycle. The After School Bikes program runs bike clubs in a number of Vancouver schools, offering safety training and mechanical instruction, as well as an earn-a-bike program where kids provide a few hours of volunteer time in exchange for an opportunity to build their own bike using donated frames and parts.

All three causes are worthy of your support, but as you can guess, I’m partial to PEDAL. We’re now offering an easy, direct-deposit donation option so you don’t have to worry about writing one big cheque to help out. As small a donation as $10.00 per month will be enough to give a child or person living in poverty the freedom and low-cost mobility of a bicycle. To find out more about all PEDAL’s program or to request a donation form, please get in touch. What better way to honour the holiday season’s spirit of giving?