Harnessing Collective Power
This past year's health and economic crisis continues to unfold even as 2020 draws to a close. The recently signed COVID-19 relief package offers assistance to many Americans who were blindsided by closures and reduced capacities that greatly impacted their ability to provide basic needs to their families. When the pandemic began last spring, neighbors were quick to act, offering assistance to those in need, many who were used to being on the other end of that outstretched hand.
Realizing we are stronger together even while quarantining alone became the battle cry of Mutual Aid groups typically found in more vulnerable neighborhoods around the country. Mutual Aids are not formal organizations funded by annual charity drives; a better description would simply be neighbors helping neighbors, sometimes bartering certain skills or supplies.
This year in DC, as businesses remained closed and events cancelled, residents needing assistance grew and Mutual Aids popped up in every single ward. Georgia, seen above, is a volunteer with Ward 4 Mutual Aid operating in the northern section of DC. She had been delivering supplies, like warm socks, food, blankets, sanitizer, hats, etc., on foot with a hand cart to DC's houseless community.
When BikeMatchDC learned of this effort, they made sure Georgia had a bike to make those deliveries go smoother and faster. With the aid of an Awesome Grant awarded to BikeMatchDC earlier this year they were able secure refurbished bikes from Bikes for the World to match with essential workers in DC, and Georgia received one of those bikes. When neighbors learned about the bike, they took up donations to buy a Burley trailer so she could stack cases of supplies to be delivered around Ward 4.
The global pandemic presented opportunities like this for Bikes for the World and our partner organizations to think outside the box and put bikes to work in new ways in 2020. Established relationships with organizations within an affected community allowed our resources to be utilized to make the greatest impact. Having the capacity and flexibility to work closely with our partners this year made our covid response immediate, bringing relief to families at home and around the world.
When our first shipment of the year arrived in Sierra Leone just before quarantines were set in place, our donated bikes were on the ground and ready to be put into use. Village Bicycle Project had to cancel classes and bike distributions, but redirected energy to respond to coronavirus needs. They used bikes to help deliver hand washing stations, face masks and food throughout the community. Bikes also allowed health volunteers to travel greater distances to provide remote villages with vital supplies and lifesaving information about coronavirus.
In the Philippines, the Bikes for Education program paused last spring when schools were closed. When public transportation was banned to help stop the community spread of coronavirus, frontline workers were forced to walk to work, wasting valuable time and energy. In the fall, when schools remained closed, it was the teachers who began traveling to students to ensure even remote communities had access to education. In both cases, Bikes for the Philippines supplied bikes, typically donated to students for school, to ease commutes for these essential workers.