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American Bikes Get New Life Overseas


American Bikes Get New Life Overseas

American Bikes Get New Life Overseas

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When Stephen Popick and his wife got new bikes they donated their old bikes to Bikes for the World. "My bikes wouldn’t fetch a nice price and wouldn’t be worth trying to have a yard sale to sell," Popick said when he dropped them off at a collection site, " but they could be useful to somebody else ."

That's the idea behind Bikes for the World. Keith Oberg, executive director of the non-profit organization, says nearly every American home has an old bicycle that isn't being ridden. "It sits there in the garage, or basement or shed going to waste. Bikes for the World puts it to good use in developing countries, puts it in the hands of somebody who needs a means of transportation to get to work or to get to school."

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Bikes for the World collects unwanted bikes almost every weekend with help from volunteer organizations here in the Washington area, where the organization is based.

It ships the bikes to non-profit organizations overseas, who repair and distribute the bikes.

Oberg says Bikes for the World currently has partners in seven countries in Africa and Central America and is working on developing more partnerships. Those organizations use the bikes in different ways.

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Changing lives with bikes

"These bikes usually go to people who have nothing, have no transportation option," says Helen Gelband, who serves on the advisory board for Bikes for the World. "We have a lot of stories about how they are used and how they have helped people increase their income, just by being able to carry more stuff or go more places."

They may allow rural health care workers to get to more patients on their daily rounds. Or help start a small bike rental business for a budding entrepreneur. They may provide work for bike mechanics. Or they may be given to a student as incentive to stay in school. Oberg says in some communities, students may have to walk eight kilometers [five miles] or more to school.

"Many of them are motivated to do that, but there are pressures to drop out, to help on the farm to earn money,” he says. “To provide a bicycle as a gift to a student in secondary school, to empower them to cover that distance three times faster than they did before, gives them the means to help out at home and still study."

Last year, Bikes for the World collected and shipped 10,000 bikes overseas. This year it hopes to exceed that number.

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