Welcome to Pedaling Change! There’s a lot of good work being done in the world of bikes, to alternative transportation advocacy to international development. To highlight some of the great action that’s going on out there, once a month we’ll be profiling a non-profit in the bike world to look at just how they’re working to make positive change.
“You can go anywhere.”
Dedicated to providing bikes to young people in developing countries, 88Bikes is certainly built on the idea of empowerment. Remember the feeling you had the first time you successfully pedaled around by yourself? That sense of freedom? Imagine bringing that sense of freedom and exhilaration to communities that have been challenged by obstacels such as war, poverty, disease and conflict. You can imagine the joy that a bike can bring.
Another key component of 88Bikes is that the organization is focused on one-to-one philanthropy, empowering not only the recipient, but the donor as well. $88 covers the approximate cost of a bike in developing countries, and donors are not only asked to provide a photo of themselves to accompany their bike, but even encouraged to take part in volunteer trips to hand deliver bikes to the donation sites, making the donation process come full circle.
Founded only 4 years ago, 88Bikes has already a long list of accomplishments. They’ve delivered bikes to Peru, Cambodia, Mongolia and Uganda and they’re currently working on their 88Bikes Villages project which will reach out to children in rural locations. Over 700 bikes have been donated, and even after a quick look at some of the organization’s photos of smiling and laughing children on their new bikes, it’s easy to see why using sustainable transportation to empower youth is such a powerful thing.
We caught up with one of 88Bikes’ founders, Dan Austin, to learn a little more about the organization and the work they’re doing.
What have some of 88bikes’ biggest accomplishments over the last year been?
Getting bikes into the hands of kids who’ve been through really difficult challenges, in really rural areas, has been very fulfilling. Kids who’ve survived slavery in rural India, Ghana, Nepal and elsewhere are now using bikes to help reconnect with some of the lost fragments of their childhood. To see these heroic kids who’ve been through so much smile wide and take off on their new rides, that’s a good feeling.
Why do you think there are so many organizations that are combining bikes and international development?
Bike are that magical vessel of freedom and fun, equally useful and enjoyable. I think folks are finally starting to realize that happiness must be addressed in addition to sustenance, and that bikes offer assistance with both!
How do you see 88 bikes expanding?
We’re having a great time. Going forward, we want to continue to offer the same sort of care to each one of our endowments, that we’ve been able to offer so far. So, we really don’t focus too much about expanding, just heading on down the path, enjoying every moment, doing good work, bringing in as many collaborators and volunteers as we can and getting bikes into the hands of as many heroic kids as possible. If we continue to grow, terrific. And we have some very ambitious plans–including a nationwide gallery tour for 88bikes photography and a 500-kid bike ride next summer in Mongolia. Even so, it’s all about the one-to-one connection for us, all about getting to know each donor individually, about talking to every single child when she is given a bike and asking her what her plans are for the future… As we continue to evolve, we work to remain true to our core ethics and let everything else take care of itself.
Do you think bikes can change the world?
Well, I think it’s not just the bike, of course, it’s that magic moment when a child throws her leg over the saddle for the first time and gets that rush as she charges down the road… that feeling, that sense of freedom, that happiness–that can change the world.