For Guisel Sanchez the dream of owning a bicycle seemed as remote as her small farming community in Coroma Costa Rica. When Guisel was born the community didn't even have a formal high school. The residents are from a native tribe known as the Bribri and many do not have water or electricity.
Coroma lies on the eastern border of Costa Rica near Panama, about 40 miles from the port of Limon where many supplies (including our bike shipments) come into the country via shipping containers. 40 miles, as the macaw flies that is. If you Google Coroma on a map and try to get directions, you are likely to get a message that reads: sorry we could not calculate directions… You may also notice, while a road appears in the town of Coroma, there are no roads connecting it to anything.
Without a viable transportation system connecting this community to the port, the villagers are often cut off from many supplies coming through Limon. So when our first shipment of bikes arrived in this community several years ago we were shocked and thrilled. A fleet of tiny fishing boats rowed our bikes over the river that cuts this community off from the rest of the country. Forty minutes upstream, the bikes arrived on the bank of a jungle still miles away from Coroma. They bounced along rough roads cutting through plantain trees and dense jungle canopies to arrive to the welcoming smiles of the Bribri people who live in this remote area.
Guisel was not only one of those welcoming smiles, but she would soon be the owner of a new-to-her Specialized Rock Hopper bike, all the way from Rockville Maryland. You may not realize this, but you first met Guisel (also known as Odily) back in 2012 when the Washington Post followed some of our bikes to Costa Rica. Guisel appeared on the front page of the Post riding her new bicycle, that was donated through Bikes for the World. When she met the reporter, who came along with the delivery of her new bike, she was shy and questioning. She could not believe she was getting a bicycle.
Her mother Gloria Segura Martinez had big dreams for her daughter as well; she wanted her to go to college. Guisel's parents were only able to attend primary school (remember, there was no high school then) and her grandparents didn't have any school at all.
Back in 2012, Guisel's oldest brother was walking two hours to high school, while she and her other brother, Joel were still in primary school. When Joel turned 12 there were only 10 students in his class; six dropped out because the distance was too far to travel.
Guisel grew up speaking Bribri, the native language of her culture. She heard stories of how her grandparents would hide when outsiders came to visit because they couldn't communicate. Guisel knows kids in the community who do not speak Spanish and feel unconnected to the country. When she grows up she wants to be a Spanish teacher. Gloria wants her to go to college and learn English. She was hoping a bicycle would help her daughter navigate the path to graduation.
And it did. Guisel completed high school and is now continuing her education in college, just like her mother had hoped.