The DFW chapter of Bicycles for Humanity is collecting 500 bikes to ship to Africa in 2015, where many residents will use them as their primary means of transportation. Courtesy of Bicycles for Humanity.
Oct. 28, 2014
By Rita Cook
Around the world, bicycles are used for more than just exercise. Even in North Texas, eco-conscious folks are taking to two wheels for environmentally-friendly transportation. Now, one Keller resident has decided to do more than just ride his bike, he also wants to share his love of riding with folks in Africa, where bicycles are often a person’s only means of transportation.
“A few of us who spend time cycling and doing triathlons were looking for ways to make a positive impact,” says Jeff Geiser, who founded the Bicycles for Humanity’s Dallas-Fort Worth chapter in January of 2012. “As we researched ideas, we [came up with] the idea of coupling our enjoyment in cycling with something that benefits people in need.”
With that mission, the organization is now collecting and will be sending bicycles to an area in Uganda called Karamoja.
As for why Uganda and not a place in need in the United States, Geiser says it was based on their desire to find a niche where they were most needed.
Right, Keller resident and bicycling enthusiast Jeff Geiser founded Bicycles for Humanity's DFW chapter in 2012. Courtesy of the Star-Telegram/Bob Booth.
“As we did research, we realized that there are actually quite a few existing charities that provide bikes to communities in our local area. For example, two of the most well known in the DFW area are Bikes for Tykes and Spokes for Hope and both are excellent charities.”
Geiser says too, that the primary reason for Uganda is because of the organization’s existing partnership with the Ben Stiller Foundation, which helps the group with in-country resources, to facilitate delivery of the bicycles to communities in Uganda.
Since its founding eight years ago, Bicycles for Humanity’s 50 chapters have delivered 75,000 bicycles to Africa. The DFW chapter hopes to send its first container in 2015, and Geiser says the organization’s goal is to collect about 500 bicycles. So far they have collected about 50 in the last couple of months.
The first collection events were held this fall at the Keller Farmers Market. Geiser said they have collected a variety of bikes from as far away as Wichita Falls, including adult and children's bikes suitable for a variety of terrains.
“While we do light repairs on bikes, we will collect any bike that can be pedaled and stopped. We have also partnered with a couple of bike shops who provide parts. In most cases, these are parts that are typically discarded from bikes that come in from repairs, but are still suitable for use. We use those parts to not only repair donated bikes but we will also send those parts to Africa for later repairs of donated bicycles.”
Above and below, bicycles serve a variety of purposes. Courtesy of Bicycles for Humanity.
The organization is also looking for opportunities to partner with area organizations, schools and bike stores throughout DFW in the coming year. Many of the bikes they have collected have come from people contacting the organization directly because they happen to find the website or Facebook page and Geiser says.
“We will be partnering with bike shops and other related stores that would like to be a drop-off point so we can scale our collection efforts.”
As for how the bikes are sent to Uganda, the 500 bikes will be loaded in a shipping container and shipped to Africa. The cost to purchase a shipping container and ship the bicycles is $12,000 or about $25-$30 per bicycle.
Geiser says that once the shipping container arrives in Uganda, the container is turned into a bike shop to serve the community. It’s a place for bicycle distribution and repairs.
“This ‘bicycle empowerment center’ is then staffed by the local community creating local jobs. In cases where there have been multiple shipping containers sent to a single community, the shipping container has provided other uses. For instance, one of the shipping containers had windows cut into the side and has become a school.”
Keeping the DFW chapter going is also key in making sure the collected bikes reach their new homes, Geiser says.
“Our primary cost and focus from a fundraising perspective is to cover the cost of buying a shipping container and shipping the bicycles to Africa. Beyond that our only expenses are related to storage of the bikes and we are looking for donated space to store our bicycles. Other than those costs, we don't have any other expenses since we attempt to keep our marketing simple.”
Above, a shipping container becomes a bicycle shop in Namibia. Courtesy of WorldWideRecyclingAtlas.com. Below, donated American bicycles provide new mobility for Africans without transportation. Courtesy of Bicycles for Humanity.
For folks who have bikes they want to drop off, Geiser says the best approach is to reach the organization via e-mail or Facebook. He promises the donation will have a big impact.
“The impact of a bicycle in communities like Uganda is incredible,” Geiser said. “A bicycle and the mobility it enables is truly life changing – jobs are created servicing the bikes. Those with bikes can sell their goods in distant markets and get to market towns instead of just selling to people that travel back roads. Kids can get to school – sometimes miles away – much easier and healthcare workers can visit more communities. Every aspect of a community is impacted.”
Contact Jeff Geiser of the DFW Chapter of Bicycles for Humanity at Jeff@B4H-DFW.org.
Rita Cook is an Arlington-based award-winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press. Contact her at email@example.com.
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