Bikes for the Philippines
Bikes for the Philippines provides bicycles as a tool to build self-esteem and help children attend and improve performance in school. BfP seeks to encourage life-long habits promoting learning, health, and livelihood, and protecting clean air: EDUCATION, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, AND ENVIRONMENT.
Businessman and undersea sports professional Joel Uichico noticed school children in the community of Baclayon, on the island of Bohol, walking long distances daily to school, often three and four kilometers over dangerous terrain. This made him wonder about the drop-out rate. He also learned about the plight of older youth who had already dropped out, who had no hopes or dreams for the future, but who should they so choose, could return and participate in the Alternative Learning System (ALS).
Joel was inspired to make a difference. He established the Bikes for the Philippines program to provide bicycles to students to (1) reduce the dropout rate of school children who walk long distances to school and hence were considered most at risk of dropping out, and (2) reach out to dropouts to complete a high school equivalency program.
With the help of his cousin in the United States, Jo Grant, Joel was able to connect with Bikes for the World. Joined by Joel Esguerra and the Baltimore office of Gensler, a global architecture, design, planning and consulting firm, bikes were collected and fundraising began.
Bikes for the World dispatched an initial shipment of more than 500 bikes in July 2011. A eco-tourism business in Baclayon, Peacock Garden Resort, funded the freight costs. The bikes arrived in Manila and were sorted and refurbished by volunteers, including an extensive network of Filipino cyclists, and members of the Filipino Army. Reconditioned bikes were distributed beginning in January 2012. The initial managing entity of the program was the Baclayon Recreational & Aquatic Activities Bohol (BRAABO) a for-profit organization that effectively operates as a non-profit.
With a high concentration on training, the program doesn't just 'hand out' bikes to beneficiaries. There is an effort to expand entrepreneurial skills in this program not only in bike mechanics but apprentice training programs at resorts as rental agents or tour guides and other positions in community organizations.
The program has been well-received in the community, not only by student beneficiaries, but by local political leaders, the Catholic Church, and members of other civic groups, who have provided assistance in many forms including signage and other public investments, mentorship, and more.
Equally importantly, the program has been covered by the national press and received support from national institutions, including the country's Army--who provided volunteers to recondition the bikes--and Navy--who transported the bikes destined for Bohol.
It is still too early to have a systematic evaluation of the change in regular student drop-out rates. However, anecdotal evidence to date is positive. Having a bike has already cut doen many students' commute time to and from school, affording them to more time--whether to concentrate on ther studies or to do other things remains to be systematically seen. However, ALS students have returned to school and are graduating. And other communities are clamoring to participate. In late 2012, the Bikes for the Philippines Foundation was established as a local non-profit to administer and expand the program to a second and neighboring community on Bohol -- Maribojoc.
Many students at Baclayon National High School had little to no cycling experience before receiving their bikes through Bikes for Education, the cycle-to-school program of Bikes for the Philippines. To gain skills and confidence, they began by riding with each other and adult mentors from the local bike club, Bol-anon Cyclists. Jake (pictured center) had never been on a bike before receiving his in early 2012. With the help of older beneficiaries, however, he was riding within a few days. Formerly an unexceptional student, Jake is now more motivated to go to school, despite the commute being five kilometers over intense terrain. Not un-coincidentally, Jake has lost a lot of weight since he received his bicycle and exhibiting greater self-confidence.
A short documentary from Tec Concepcion on the beginnings of Bikes for the Philippines and the labor of love from the people behind this cause.
- Bikes for the Philippines on Ako Ang Simula Host Karen Davila introduces Bikes for the Philippines and Ron and Sherwin Narbary, two brothers who received bikes through the program.
- Bikes for the Philippines on Buhay Pinoy Joel Uichico describes how Bikes for the Philippines began and the partnership between Bikes for the World
- Bikes for the Philippines on Facebook