3 minutes reading time (512 words)

Old Bikes Creating New Opportunities

In Rwanda an old bike transforms the lives of newborns and their moms. Bikes for the World's newest partner, Learn Work and Develop (LWD) uses donated bicycles to support the young people in Rwanda by providing economic, medical and psychosocial support to teens at risk of getting pregnant, are currently pregnant, or recently became new mothers. LWD employs local bike mechanics to fix up and sell our donated bikes to help support these initiatives.

LWD is exactly the type of program we strive to include as a partner. This is an organization on the ground in the community where they are trying to make a difference. They can best understand the needs of the most vulnerable members of their community and are in position to identify resources, challenges, and ultimately solutions that are sustainable and supportive.

Before the pandemic, LWD was on target to expand its work focusing on adolescent women by providing education outreach, job training and opportunities, and general support to expecting teenaged moms. But when schools closed, drop outs among young girls spiked. Of the girls who quit school during the 7 month closure, nearly half said it was because they were pregnant, just given birth, or been forced into an early marriage. Given communal hostility toward these girls and the toxic school environment, re-enrollment efforts seemed insurmountable . Many girls also cited the burden of childcare as a reason for not returning to school.

LWD had a plan in place to help this at-risk population when the pandemic struck and covid intensified the need. Like many programs during the coronavirus crisis, LWD shifted gears to better serve their community immediately. They stepped up vocational training in lieu of classroom education. They offered classes in tailoring, hairdressing, mushroom farming, and even plastic basket weaving. The idea being to empower these women economically, providing hope and solutions that will lead them back to a path to graduation. 

Girls who receive an education lead healthier, more productive lives. They will earn higher incomes, participate in the decisions that affect them most, and build better futures for themselves, their families, and their communities. 

Bikes for the World anticipated sending our first container to LWD in 2020 but covid intervened. Because of port closures and bike shortages, this plan was put on hold until 2021, when our first container to Rwanda set sail in March 2021. By June those bikes arrived in Rwanda, were unloaded, assessed, and work began to fix them up for sale.

LWD began their bike initiative in 2018 with Boston based Bikes Not Bombs. Each year they received one container, including ours in 2021. But because of the negative impacts the coronavirus closures had on already-at-risk young women, the need for LWD intensified. The need for bikes was dire. Bikes for the World answered by shipping a second container before the end of 2021 and another slated to go out next month. By increasing our shipments we hope to augment LWD's funds so that they can continue with their vital work uninterrupted.

Featured Volunteer: Connor Monahan
Featured Volunteer: Kevin Dolan