During the pandemic, transportation to and from work became an even greater challenge not only to rural communities in the Philippines, but truly everywhere, even in metro Manila. For nurses, janitors, security guards, farmers, and those in the food service industry, working from home was not an option. And when public transportation shut down, buses were also unavailable. If you could find a private car or uber, the fares were often expensive. Many essential workers were forced to walk great distances home or spend the night where they worked.
Getting to the warehouse was even a challenge for our partner Bikes for the Philippines. During the height of the lockdowns in Manila, Director Joel Uichico found armed security guards between him and the warehouse. During this time, Joel used his network of connections (via FB, zoom, and telephone) to redistribute bikes that were already in communities throughout the Philippines.
Because the nation is comprised of thousands of islands, bike distribution typically takes a village. The same can be said about implementing the program. Usually our bikes are donated in bulk to a school district who then works to identify, train, and monitor students for the bike program. Many schools establish a bike room to store bikes and in some cases in 2020, while kids were learning from home, those bikes were sitting unused either in schools or local warehouses. Joel worked with local community groups to help distribute those bikes to essential workers during the pandemic.
Once quarantine restrictions started easing and Bikes for the Philippines was able to get back into the warehouse they worked to identify bikes they had on hand that could quickly be put into use. Joel then started answering the call from local groups and companies who needed to find transportation solutions for their workers. Corner Tree Cafe and Coron Natural Farms were two companies who received bikes last year through Bikes for the Philippines.
Eric, is a famer at Coron Natural Farms who received a bike last December. He was walking several miles to work before receiving his bike. He now saves an hour on his commute and is extremely grateful for the donated bike.
Because the farmers spend many hours tending to fields in the hot sun, saving time and energy on the bike rather than a long walk to work has been a godsend.
Edwin is employed at Corner Tree Cafe and reports that he his able to save a lot of money by not hiring a driver to get to work. This was a huge burden on his family, who now can also use the bike to run errands for the household. Before Edwin received a bike he had to spend time away from his family during a very unsettling time. They are very relieved to have the bike, and dad back home with them every night.
While Bikes for the Philippines was forced to adapt their mission away from students in 2020 and 2021, they didn't stray far from their overall program. They continued to identify those individuals who struggled with long and/or expensive commutes and offered an affordable solution through bikes. Through in-country donations they were also able to provide the new riders with helmets to help keep them safe. As they do with our student beneficiaries, BfP also provided instruction and road safety programs to all the employees receiving bikes through the program.
We are excited to have a resupply of bikes on the way to the Philippines to help continue their mission providing bikes to essential workers while we build back to normal. Eventually the container of bikes now on the way will also help jump start their work back in the schools once students return.