Building Community and Service
This all started back in 2011 with two girls from Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart. Those two girls, along with teacher Ken Woodward, would come out to King Farm a couple times a week to help us load containers to be shipped overseas.
This was part of their school wide Social Action program and over the years the popularity of working with Bikes for the World grew and grew. We continued to open up space year after to year to accommodate more girls during each session. They are now a crew of a dozen.
Several things have changed over the years to make this partnership beneficial for them, us, and especially our partners around the world. As the Stone Ridge team grew so did our need to find more work to keep them busy. It was also during that period that Bikes for the World really started focusing on the quality of our shipments going overseas.
If a main function of our mission was to create jobs through our donated bikes we needed to make sure those rural mechanics had parts to immediately start working on the bikes in need of repair. So we put wrenches, bottom bracket pullers, and chain breakers in the hands of these capable young women, and viola! mission accomplished.
We now had a regular team of students visiting our warehouse removing parts from marginal bikes we didn't want to ship overseas. While the frames may have been unsuitable to terrain we were shipping to, the parts would be invaluable to the mechanics. This allowed us to not only increase the value of the bikes we were shipping, but also include the necessary parts to fix and maintain the bikes already there.
And now that we finally settled into a comfortable warehouse and we know we are sticking around for a while, Operations Manager Bob Leftwich made it his priority to optimize our space to give this activity a permanent home. We now have half a dozen dedicated work spaces for our visiting 'mechanics'. Our parts wall is neat and organized. Whether you are stripping parts or building a bike no one is wasting time looking for the bin for that specific part.
With the addition of Executive Director Taylor Jones to our team, we can now open this activity up to more groups having both Bob and Taylor mentoring the youth around the more intricate bike parts and tools needed to strip down a frame. This is allowing us to be even more selective in what we ship as a full bike in our containers, cutting back on sending bikes that simply cannot be put back into use.
It's also giving school groups a more rounded experience when they come visit Bikes for the World. Just last month, our first group came as part of their bike mini-mester session. Georgetown Day School (GDS) is no stranger around Bikes for the World or our warehouse. In the past they have hosted many bike collections at the lower school and this past fall the upper school came out to load their first container.
Then the Dean of School Life, Quinn Killy, approached BfW about doing something a little more involved. His vision was to take two days and have a group of kids learn more about the importance of bikes around the world. They would then collect bikes and the kids would fix them up to be donated locally. The City Bikes mechanics came over to give a quick mechanics lesson to the teens and set them loose on repairing some of the donated bikes.
The following day the GDS students arrived in our warehouse with a truck full of bikes left over from the day before. They then helped us load a container of bikes heading to Wheels of Africa in Kenya. While the loading team worked with Bob to fill the container, Taylor worked with another group of students in the workbench area, stripping parts for the next shipment.
In the end the students learned a lot about what we do, and now have a better understanding of how valuable a discarded bike in the US can be to someone struggling to feed their family in Africa. A bicycle not only serves as affordable transportation, but it's a source of income and pride to many families. GDS also repaired and donated 15 bikes locally, to a group called No One Left Behind. This non profit was established to help Afghan and Iraqi combat interpreters with Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) resettle safely in the United States.These war heroes put their lives in danger to help our soldiers. Many of them were forced to escape to safety in the US, but without the proper resources to succeed. No One Left Behind lends a hand to make that transition smoother.