3 minutes reading time (660 words)

True Motivation: Stefani's Story

Stefani de Paz takes great pride in her bike repair business. Stefani grew up watching her dad fix bicycles. She loved watching him work in their shop and had dreams of one day working along side him in the family business. In El Salvador it's unusual for a woman to do this work but it's something she was always interested  in doing.

When her father was no longer able to keep up with the work, Stefani and her husband decided to take over the bike shop. It was Stefani's husband who would do the repairs and Stefani would take care of the customers and run the business. However, life had another plan for Stefani. Within two months of the transition, her husband passed away and Stefani was forced to take over everything.

Stefani will be the first to tell you getting started wasn't easy. At first the challenges seemed insurmountable. She could no longer look to her father for guidance. And the loss of her husband and partner took an emotional toll on her. She wasn't sure she wanted to continue. But their child encouraged her to keep moving forward.

It was her son that really motivated Stefani to keep at it. At first, when repairing a bike, she would take it apart and keep notes about what part went where. Then she would try reversing the steps to put it back together. She was spending hours on each bike going piece by piece trying to fix what was wrong.

Then she found CESTA. Stefani was motivated and capable but she often felt like a small child learning something for the first time. Some tasks felt so difficult and she often struggled to put the bikes back together. CESTA offered intensive mechanics workshops, some specifically for women- that basically started at square one. 

Stefani enrolled in their bike repair workshop and really learned how to take apart the bike, fix it, or replace parts that were broken, and then get it tuned up and rolling again. Now she can patch a tube, adjust the brakes, build wheels, or simply replace a cable. 

Stefani believes building wheels is the most difficult part of her job. But it's also the most rewarding. This goes back to when she used to watch her dad in the shop. She had always dreamed of learning how to build a wheel from scratch. And now thanks to CESTA, she's a pro!

At Bikes for the World, our volunteers spend hours taking wheels apart that are destined for the recycle bin. We try to save the spokes, rims, or hubs for mechanics like Stefani who may need that particular part to repair a wheel in a shop. Learning how to repack a hub or respoke and true a wheel is something CESTA focuses on during their workshops. 

Across El Salvador, CESTA has delivered tools to about 50 workshops, many of the mechanics coming through CESTA's training sessions. Currently CESTA helps support about a dozen shops like Stefani's providing used parts, frames, and bikes. They also support many shops that are smaller in size or seasonal, but still rely on CESTA for used bikes and parts, many coming from Bikes for the World.

Stefani credits CESTA with much of her success, she says, there you start with a little, but learn a lot! She is also quick to encourage anyone to follow their passion. She loves seeing someone smile after she repairs their bike. Because she had to overcome stereotypes she also had to be really good at what she does. You know if a shop is run by a woman, she had to work hard to get there and she is motivated to provide the best repair job possible to her clients. For Stefani, stereotypes don't matter, "if it makes you happy, do it!" She now dreams of expanding her workshop and possibly opening another.

Featured Volunteer: Pamela McCormick
A Race to Progress