Bikes for the World is the nation’s largest bicycle reuse program.
Its motto is “a bicycle can get someone someplace…like from poverty to self-sufficiency.” We see a bicycle as a tool for individual empowerment. Bicycles enable disadvantaged individuals to get to work, school, or health care, and in general take greater control of their lives.
Most of the impact of Bikes for the World occurs overseas. However, a significant local impact takes place as well For example, Bikes for the World donated bikes to half a dozen local programs:
- Employment programs for adults – Casa de Maryland’s day laborer center in Rockville MD;
- Earn-a-bike programs for teens – Phoenix Bikes (Arlington VA) and Bikes for the World’s own Rockville Youth Bike Project, in partnership with the City of Rockville’s Department of Recreation and Parks; and
- Gifting programs for younger children – Bikes for Tykes and Teens (Alexandria/Fairfax), Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill (Alexandria), and Communities Helping Others (Vienna VA).
Because of it scale, Bikes for the World also acts as a clearinghouse for local groups to obtain bicycles for specific needs. For example, in 2011, Bikes for the World put a DC abused women’s shelter in touch with the Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill bike program; two clients of the shelter needed reconditioned bikes to participate in the program and to work; the Metro-accessible Alexandria program had several reconditioned women’s bicycles immediately available.
Beyond distributing bicycles, Bikes for the World benefits the greater Washington DC region through providing tangible, educational and rewarding community service opportunities to individuals and community organizations, both young and adult.
During 2012, high school students in Maryland earned more than a thousand “student service learning” hours toward high school graduation requirements. Seven young men managed bike collections as their community service project required for obtaining the Eagle rank, Boy Scouts of America’s highest award. Two young men did bike collections as the community service project for their Bar Mitzvah. Student teams from half a dozen local schools collected bikes or loaded containers.
Adults benefited as well. More than 80 faith communities, service clubs, schools, and businesses sponsored collections and loadings. Two faith communities held their 17th annual collections. Two businesses each contributed a full day of employee labor. The reasons are many, but include the satisfaction of helping others, the contribution to preserving our environment, and the pleasure and team-building impact of working together as a community.
Bikes for the World looks to stimulate all participants, whether donor or volunteer, to take away something positive from the experience—to reflect on the contrast between our society’s material blessings and those less fortunate than ourselves--and eventually to take further action to preserve the environment or to help others.