3 minutes reading time (652 words)

Hindsight 2020

They say that hindsight is 2020. But a cyclist knows in order to keep your balance you need to keep your eyes on where you are going. And when we took a look back over the past year we realized that practice is exactly what kept us rolling through a challenging year of uncertainty. 

It should have been a year of celebration for Bikes for the World. We started 2020 strong and busy. It was our 15th anniversary. We had just surpassed 150,000 bikes in 2019. We added two new partners and their first containers were just arriving. We had helped over half a million beneficiaries. Volunteer groups packed the warehouse, shipments were going out, the spring collection season was set. 

But even as we plugged away, making plans and setting goals, the whole world watched as a public health crisis prepared to spread across the globe and set up impassible roadblocks. By the Ides of March we had laid down our wrenches, parked our trucks, and closed our warehouse doors. For the next two months Bikes for the World hit pause as quarantines and lockdowns closed businesses and ports around the world. 

Fortunately our model for the last 15 years included working with established organizations to support sustainable programs that used our donated bikes to build and improve their communities. Eyes forward. So when the world seemed to stop turning last March, our bikes were already on the ground, wheels spinning. Our local networks were already established and supported. They had developed the foundation needed to respond to a pandemic that no one was prepared for. 

Yes, when public transportation was affected, bikes were there to ensure essential workers could still get to work. But Bikes for the World chooses partners and programs based on a systemic and cultural approach that empowers a community to bring about long term lasting change rather than just giving away free bikes to individuals. So when COVID-19 seemed to cut everyone off while we stayed home to stay safe, our partners were able to pivot and adapt to respond to the needs of the community, outside of simple transportation. 

In Madagascar, healthcare volunteers were still able to see patients and provide care and medications. Local tailors in Ghana and Costa Rica adjusted their businesses and used sewing machines to make facial coverings to prevent the spread of coronavirus. When spare parts and new bikes became sparse or unattainable, our trained mechanics provided used bikes and repair services to keep bikes rolling and frontline workers moving. Micro-finance programs were still able to issue loans and farmers could still obtain seed and plant crops. Rural students without access to remote learning, received in person lessons from teachers...on bikes! 

Bikes for the World is committed to supporting projects around the world that create opportunities within the community. Our beneficiaries are strong and resilient, they know what they need to survive. Our mission is to provide a resource to assist their effort and help them thrive. We saw this play out in 2020, and now more than ever we are committed to building on this foundation.

By March 2021, we looked back not only over 2020, but over a full year of the pandemic. While our bike numbers may have been down, our impact certainly was not. So far this year, we have already donated over 2,000 bikes. We have welcomed back volunteer groups to the warehouse and we are slowly building back our community collection leaders. Our local partners, both at recycling centers, bike shops, and civic organizations have carried us through the pandemic and allowed us to supply each of our partners with at least one container of bikes in 2020. And already in 2021, we have been able to add a new partner that was delayed because of the pandemic. We are off to a great start, looking and moving forward. If you want to see where we've been, please take a look at our Snapshot 2020.

Featured Volunteer: Ted Haynie
Featured Volunteer: Jeff Colaianni

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