Ability Bikes improves the mobility of people in Ghana by selling and repairing bicycles for able-bodied people and mobility aids for persons with disability. Ability Bikes empowers persons with disability with job training and access to sustainable economic opportunities.
Ability Bikes Cooperative is a social enterprise bike shop in Koforidua in eastern Ghana that is cooperatively owned and operated by its workers, all of whom are persons with disabilities. It was founded in 2008 with the help of sister-organization Bikes Not Bombs. In 2009, Ability Bikes workers took full ownership of the shop and began running operations independently with continued technical assistance provided by Bikes Not Bombs.
Ability Bikes imports shipments of donated used bicycles, bike parts, and mobility aids from partners in the United States and United Kingdom including not only Bikes for the World, but also Bikes Not Bombs, Re~Cycle, and Working Bikes. The workers include trained mechanics who manage the repair of the bicycles, a sales representative, and an accounts administrator. Bikes are then sold both wholesale and directly from their shop to individuals in need.
The workers at Ability Bikes manage a professional workshop to refurbish the bicycles and prepare them for sale. The wholesale of a portion of the bikes supports small-scale entrepreneurship in the region and the individual sales serve people in the community in need of affordable transportation. Bikes ultimately go to students, farmers, guards and more. The sale of high quality bicycles and mobility aids increases mobility for able-bodied persons and persons with disabilities alike.
The revenues from the sales go toward paying the salaries of the staff members with disabilities, rent for their workshop, administration, bicycle shipments, and the purchase of necessary supplies. This system of employing workers with disabilities allows them access to a new skill set through training in bicycle repair and a source of reliable income. Previously, staff members worked in fields including hairdressing and weaving, where it was difficult to guarantee a steady income to support themselves and their families.
Mirriam Oduro Ageiwaa
Mirriam is a mechanic and part owner of Ability Bikes. She has problems standing for long periods of time due to her disability. She needs two crutches to walk and one of her arms is also affected.
Mirriam states, I pursued vocational skills training in hairdressing. After completion, I practiced it as a career until I started encountering challenges while standing to fix hair for my customers. My career came to a halt because of those challenges until I became trained as a mechanic with Ability Bikes. I am currently the only female bike mechanic at Ability Bikes and am a very good wheel builder.
"I know how to do everything about the bicycle. From the time I remove the bicycle from the stand and put it on the ground I know that bicycle is a complete bicycle. The owner can move it to everywhere," Julius Amegavi
Julius is also a mechanic and part owner of Ability Bikes cooperative. He is a welder and makes complex repairs to bicycles in the shop. Julius loves the idea of the co-op, which gives everyone a stake in the shop's success.
Emmanuel is 16 years old and is a student at Presby Junior High in Koforidua, Ghana. He received this refurbished bike through the Ability Bikes Co-Op. Emmanuel uses his bike to speed his commute to school each day. The time he saves riding his bike, leaves him more time for homework and to help around the house. He also uses his bike to run errands for the family. Riding his donated bike freed Emmanuel from relying on expensive public transportation. His family can now use the money they used to spend on bus fare to hlep support their family.
Become a Partner
Can your organization use a large number of used bicycles to further its employment, education, or health care, or other mission?
Bikes for the World welcomes requests from serious, professional non-profit organizations in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Asian-Pacific region.
A typical donation consists of approximately 450-525 used bicycles plus an assortment of spare parts, arriving in a 40' shipping container. The types of bikes are mixed and include 26'' mountain bikes, 24'' mountain bikes, 700c road bikes, 700c hybrids, 20'' children's bikes, and 16'' and smaller baby bikes. Bikes for the World does its best to meet requests for particular combinations of these types to best suit the partner's needs.
The bikes are shipped semi-disassembled and will therefore require assembly upon arrival. As they are used, many will often require some repair or refurbishing. Bikes for the World works to send as high a quality of bikes and parts as possible to increase the value of the shipment.
While the bikes and parts are donated at no cost, successful applicants will be expected to cover the cost of shipping (usually US$3,000 to US$10,000, depending on country) as well as any local costs such as taxes, customs fees, and local inland trucking to their storage site.
Please note, Bikes for the World does not provide any grant funding.
Sra. Luz de Madrid
Bikes for the World also donates sewing machines to select programs overseas. Beneficiaries are often taught sewing techniques through the program and the donated machines not only facilitate this instruction but also help the recipients generate income for their families. BfW donates sewing machines to Panama, Costa Rica, and Uganda.
Sra. Luz de Madrid runs her own micro-business designing and sewing modern and traditional clothes for the local and tourist markets. With her earnings from sales, this stay-at-home mother has been able to cover the school fees and associated expenses of her children.
Odison has come a long way. Growing up in Alcalde Diaz, Villa Victoria, where, according to Goodwill Panama director Angel Diaz, "the conditions of life aren't the best", Odison had dropped out of school and showed no interest in doing anything constructive with his life. Desperate because of the boy's general rebelliousness, his parents brought the 14-year old to Goodwill Panama.
There they registered Odison in the Goodwill Vocational Education Center, where young people with special needs receive vocational education in the metal-working shop in the morning, complemented with primary and secondary education in the afternoon. Continue reading Odison's story
The Pimentel Family
It is not uncommon for a family, and sometimes an entire village, to share a single bicycle to get to work, school, and to run errands. The Pimentel Family is fortunate to have gotten three bicycles from Goodwill Panama.
The bicycles help the family transport and sell homemade foods in the community faster and more efficiently. They used to use a horse but were finally able to let the poor guy retire when they got the bikes. These bikes are used by the whole family, including one son who is handicapped. Hear the family tell their story in this video.
Erika Pimentel is blind. She received a brailler (typewriter for the blind) through a special shipment from Bikes for the World in 2012. Several donated braillers accompanied a shipment of bikes to Panama courtesy of Peace Corps Friends Panaman and Goodwill Panama.
Occassionally, Bikes for the World will ship special items along with our bike shipments to countries that allow this. Goodwill Virginia worked alongside Bikes for the World to deliver half a container of wheelchairs, crutches, and canes to Goodwill Panama. See other items that were shipped with bikes over the years.
All beneficiary stories and photos courtesy of Goodwill Panama
Learn more about becoming a partner and receiving a shipment of bikes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can be a Bikes for the World partner?
What do partners receive?
Will Bikes for the World provide funding to my organization?
What are the requirements of partners?
What is covered in the shipping fee?
When would I need to pay?
How are the bikes sent?
What is the quality and condition of the bikes?
What are the reporting requirements for partners?
What kind of organizations/projects have you sent bikes to in the past?
How many shipments can an organization receive?
How does an organization apply?
What time of the year do you accept applications?
Still have other questions about partnerships?
Organizations in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Asian-Pacific region that:
- Have a non-sectarian mission and vision tailored to a specific and demonstrable community need that can be addressed at least in part by the use of bicycles
- Have at least one program that has been functioning for a year or more, focused on improving the lives of low-income or otherwise disadvantaged citizens, with documented results
- Have the financial capacity to pay for the expenses of shipping the bicycles from the Bikes for the World warehouse in the United States to the proposed project site
- Have a full time Executive Director
- Are recognized by national law as not-for-profit
- Have reputable third-party references (preferably international)
- Have a demonstrated willingness and ability to collaborate with other community groups, regardless of religious, ethnic, political, or socio-economic affiliation.
Approximately 450-525 used bikes PLUS used bike parts. The types of bikes are mixed and include 26'' mountain bikes, 24'' mountain bikes, 700c road bikes, 700c hybrids, 20'' children's bikes, and 16'' and smaller baby bikes. Bikes for the World does its best to meet requests for particular combinations of these types to best suit the partner's needs. Occasionally other requests (for sewing machines, crutches, wheelchairs) can be accommodated on a case-by-case basis.
Bikes for the World can at times also make purchases of new bicycle-related items on behalf of the receiving partner to include in the shipment. Such purchases would be approved on a case-by-case basis and full payment would be expected.
Requests for fewer than 450-525 bikes cannot generally be granted due to higher unit shipping costs.
Bikes for the World does not provide grants or cash funding to organizations. Our support consists of in-kind products and services -- the donation of valuable used bicycles, spare parts, and on occasion special items, and partial funding of shipping for qualifying partners.
Partners need to:
- Cover the cost of shipping from the US to its destination (usually US$3,000-US$10,000, depending on the country) – the bikes and parts are free
- Manage the logistics from port to the point of distribution, which may require customs fees/taxes, access to secure storage facilities, and/or transportation for project materials
- Re-assemble and recondition/repair the bikes
- Negotiate and sign a Memorandum of Understanding clarifying mutual responsibilities
- Provide periodic reporting (see the reporting requirements below for more details)
The shipping fee covers U.S. inland trucking, ocean freight, the freight forwarder fee, the courier of documents (if needed), any miscellaneous fees charged by the shipper, as well as any additional items purchased and included by Bikes for the World at the request of the receiving partner.
It does NOT cover inland trucking in the country of destination from the port to the partner's site, customs fees, local taxes, storage in the destination country, or other expenses that may occur once the shipment has arrived in country. The receiving partner will be responsible for arranging and paying these costs separately.
For first-time shipments, Bikes for the World typically requests payment in advance. Subsequent shipments will normally be invoiced at the time of loading. Flexible payment options may be discussed on a case-by-case basis. Payment via wire transfer is preferred.
Bikes for the World partially disassembles the bikes by removing the pedals, lowering the seats, and turning and flipping the handle bars. This allows us to fit as many bikes as possible. We then load the bikes and parts into a 40-foot "high cube" shipping container. The shipping container is taken to a nearby port in the U.S. and shipped to the local port most convenient for the final destination. Partners are responsible for arranging transportation from the port of arrival to their site. Note that in addition, all donated bicycles will require some minimal re-assembly (i.e., re-attaching the pedals, turning handlebars, etc.) and adjustment.
Bikes for the World makes every effort to send bikes of as high a quality as possible, although the quality of both the frames and components varies. Nearly all bicycles will be used and in "repairable or better condition." While we make every effort to send bicycles in good condition, some will require substantial repair and many will require light servicing (such as patching tubes or replacing the tires). To assist, Bikes for the World adds a valuable assortment of spare parts to each shipment.
The partner organization will be expected to provide the information requested below to Bikes for the World by the determined deadlines:
- An initial evaluation and inventory of the contents received following the designated template within one (1) month of reception of the shipment for each shipment sent
- A program evaluation of the partnership, following the designated template, every six (6) months after the reception of the first shipment (unless otherwise agreed upon by both parties) that includes:
- A programmatic update and evaluation (qualitative and quantitative)
- A minimum of three (3) interviews of beneficiaries
- A minimum of ten (10) quality photographs of unloading, bike distribution, and beneficiaries with their bikes
- A financial report for each shipment received
NB: Organizations will not be eligible for subsequent shipments if they do not satisfactorily complete the reporting requirements.
There is no set maximum or minimum number of shipments an organization can receive. It will be determined by availability and project needs. We have partnered with organizations on a one-time basis that only receive one shipment and we have partnered with organizations with whom we develop a long-standing relationship and who receive several shipments a year.
You must first send a completed preliminary inquiry form to kaila(at)bikesfortheworld.org. After review, strong candidates will be asked to fill out a final application form. Both forms can be found on the Bikes for the World website under How To Apply.
We are not currently accepting new partners. If you send an application it will not be considered immediately.
Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology
To promote environmentally sustainable and socially equitable transportation operating a bicycle import, repair, and sales workshop.
The Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA) was founded in 1980 by a group of academics to protect this Central American nation's increasingly fragile environment. CESTA broke new ground, not only because it was one of El Salvador's first NGO's and environmental advocates, but because it was created and functioned reasonably un-molested during the civil war which polarized the country and killed thousands over more than a decade. CESTA combined research and advocacy on environmental issues, with practical initiatives promoting environmentally sustainable and socially equitable development. One such initiative was the import and reconditioning of used bicycles, for distribution at low cost to low-income workers, students, farmers, and laborers for access to work and school.
CESTA continues to function as an advocate and a communicator in diverse environmental areas. Its grassroots contacts in rural communities enables it to monitor environmental crimes and "sound the alarm" at the national level, through the media and public sector agencies. Its founder and director, Ricardo Navarro, is a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize for CESTA's work protecting El Salvador's natural resources and the communities which depend on them. It is a member of Friends of the Earth International.
CESTA's bicycle business, known as Eco-bici, promotes the bicycle as a mode of transport for all. Over more than 20 years, it has received more than 25,000 donated bicycles from overseas. Bikes for the World began donating bikes in 2012 and has provided 970 bicycles to date.
Inside CESTA's huge bike workshop, located in San Marcos, a suburb of the capital city of San Salvador, employees and apprentices recondition donated bikes, repair bikes brought in by customers, sell bikes, teach bike maintenance and bike-building for free to at-risk urban youth. After receiving training, many of their students gain employment as bike mechanics or even establish their own bikeshops in their communities. In the past, the center also developed bicycle-powered grain milling machinery, a pilot effort that has been spun off as a private business operated by a former student.
Proceeds of the shop support CESTA's advocacy on environmental issues, and core administrative expenses.
Antonio used to work in the packing industry but became unemployed after developing a disability that prevented him from performing the heavy manual labor required for the job. Now Antonio buys bikes from CESTA and repairs them himself. He currently sells the refurbished bikes in front of a friend's store, but hopes to have his own shop soon. He has been selling bikes for several years and supplements sales with bike maintenance work.
Erick is a Salvadoran military verteran who lost his leg in the war and now suffers from PTSD. His disabilities have made it difficult for him to find stable work and he drifted between several jobs before finding CESTA. They provided him with the training he needed to learn all aspects of bike mechanics and now he even completes the challending task of building wheels.
Because of his new-found expertise, he was given the added responsibility of quality control and helping younger interns with more challenging repairs. Erick has found stability and acceptance at CESTA and his new role working and mentoring with the interns has become one of his favorite things about his job.
Jose and Rosa Hernandez