4 minutes reading time (852 words)

Bikes Uplift a Community in Barbados

Supporting diverse programs is one of the ways Bikes for the World is able to affect so many lives around the world in a multitude of ways. Our bike project provides affordable transportation, creates jobs, encourages education, and supports adult and youth programs beyond just bikes.

When selecting partners we look at many organizations in many countries doing great work in hundreds of areas. In Barbados we found a partner that is helping to change its community through art based projects. Nearly forty years ago this organization formed, focused almost soley on theatre projects. Today it has evolved to form the backbone of a struggling community.

Pinelands Creative Workshop (PCW) is one of the original Bikes for the World partners. We started shipping to this organization in May of 2005 when we first formed as BfW. Since then we have donated over 11,000 bikes to help support the efforts of this community focused group. This month we will load our 24th container of bikes for Barbados.

Pinelands Creative Workshop (PCW) began as a way to engage and educate some of the most under-served residents of Barbados. Situated on the border of the Pinelands community, PCW was poised to make a difference and change lives for the better.

While Barbados itself is the wealthiest of the east Caribbean islands, the Pinelands is actually the largest low income community in Barbados. The community consists of mainly under-skilled young people and is characterized by high levels of unemployment. At one time, The Pines was viewed by many as a community with no future.

PCW was created to introduce a creative and productive outlet to a community mired in this negative perception. Phase one focused on cultural productions aimed at teaching and engaging the community. Over the years they added sporting activities and eventually evolved into a respected and admired organization providing a range of activities and training programs to its community.

Since its beginning in the seventies, PCW has undergone many transformations over the decades to include skills and life training programs for many residents in the community. They now offer computer classes, self defense classes, career preparedness programs, life skills activities, and summer youth camps in addition to their original focus on arts and sports.

In 2005, PCW added a bike shop and bike mechanics to that growing list of training options. By partnering with Bikes for the World, PCW also added a little capital to the program. After fixing up our donated bikes, PCW sold refurbished bikes at a low cost to the community which helped fund their growing Meals on Wheels program.

Sophia Greaves-Broome, Special Projects Director with the Marcus Garvey Resource and Development Centre (MGRDC) the Training Arm of the PCW states, "The bicycle project has allowed the MGRDC to deliver quality and relevant programs at the community level responding to expressed needs of over 3000 residents who can be categorized as either unemployed, underemployed, unskilled, vulnerable and/or living in poverty. Furthermore the injection of support has added considerable social value to the community and the empowerment of beneficiaries."

More notably to some, this bike program helped make PCW much more relevant by adding an important development platform for youth. Boys were lining up to join this program, earn a little pocket money, learn about bikes, and gain experience using tools while learning a skill.

Zidane, Michausa, and Nathaniel joined the bike program a couple years ago. They are trained by Ronald and Stephen who see the program has much more to offer than just revenue generated to help fund programs:

There are softer and more long term benefits for the young men we work with. They learn about respect for people and property, about managing time and finishing a job in the best way they can, they learn about conflict resolution and they learn to take pride in their work and after all the work is done they feel proud to see a person walk out with a bike that they worked on.

Before boys had this outlet at PCW, Ronald says he often saw fights breaking out between the adolescents. Now they can direct their energy into something more productive.

Danny's mom was especially impressed with her son's enthusiasm and dedication during the time he was with the bicycle initiative; she confessed that he was excited about going to work and that his new-found responsibility infected the rest of his life. He was more active at home and around the house and he was ready and willing to take on new tasks. It was like the experience matured him, he was a "serious" young man.

Knowing the difference these youth mechanics had in their community grounded them and got them excited and focused on their task, fixing bikes. The very bikes they refurbished were helping members of their community run errands and do their jobs. Rudolph MacDonald bought his bike from PCW and uses it to deliver newspapers. Anna Sherman was an exchange student studying nursing who just finished up her studies this past spring; she used her PCW bike to attend class. Dennis Murrel helps deliver medications to eldery residents in addition to running his own errands by bike.

Safety, Training, and Advocacy
Teaching to Thrive