Gerardo lives in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rico with his family. He is the oldest of four and strives to set a positive example for his sister and two younger brothers. When we first met Gerardo in 2014, he was 12 years old and had dreams of becoming an architect.
In Guanacaste most families make their money through farming or working in the tourist industry. The coastal area is one of the most popular among tourists. Gerardo lives inland where many of his neighbors are farmers. In 2015 he saw many of them struggling with dry crops during a harsh drought that hit the area. He had dreams of going farther, but opportunities for a rural pre-teen were scarce.
Given Gerardo's success in school and his proven track record in elementary school, his teachers worked to help him attain a scholarship to attend a private school in Tamarindo Beach. Educarte is a bilingual school where many expats send their kids. This was a chance for Gerardo to really jump ahead.
The school, however, is 21 miles from Gerardo's small community of Tempate. The bus system many students use doesn't go far enough east for him and his local bus line didn't run early enough for him to make it to school on time. His only option was to pay a driver or walk the four miles to Cartagena. From there he could then catch a bus to Tamarindo and make it to school on time. His commute was about five hours of day.
When the co-op in his community received a container of bikes from Bikes for the World in December of 2014, Gerardo was selected by the members to receive a bicycle to ease his commute to school and help him realize his dreams. But it wasn't just any bicycle, this was the 100,000th bike BfW donated. We wanted to make sure it went to someone special and we were thrilled to learn that person would be Gerardo.
Guanacaste is just one of six regions in Costa Rica. Our partner in Costa Rica, MiBici, adjusted their model of distribution this year to ensure that all six regions receive at least one container of bikes every year. Those would be spread out among several co-ops within the region.
Just last month we shipped another container of bikes to Guanacaste, with some of the bikes going to Mari's town of Nicoya. Mari received one of the bikes from that donation. This is her first bike and she was beyond excited when her dad gave it to her. Next up, learning to ride!
While MiBici was in Guanacaste, we if they could check back in with Gerardo to see how he was doing. He was excited to pull that bike out to show us he was still using it. It's a little more worn, the paint a little less shiny, but that's the same bike! He now towers above the handlebars and has raised the seat, but it still gets Gerardo around town and to school on time.
Gerardo just entered his final year of high school and hopes to attend the Universidad de Costa Rica next year to study architecture.