HOW WORLD BICYCLE RELIEF IS CHANGING LIVES ONE BICYCLE AT A TIME
World Bicycle Relief mobilizes individuals, their families and entire communities to thrive
In developing regions of the world, millions of people walk for miles each day just to survive. On foot, individuals race against the sun to complete everyday tasks. Distance is a barrier to attending school, receiving healthcare, and delivering goods to market. Responding and making an impact, World Bicycle Relief is answering the call by using specially designed, locally assembled, rugged bicycles for people in need. Their work and development has created an efficient, innovative, and scalable model to empower students, health workers, and entrepreneurs in rural, developing regions with life-changing mobility.
The Buffalo bicycle is what gets this program rolling, but this is far from your typical bike. While most of the world’s bicycles are lightweight, complex and made for recreation, the Buffalo bicycle is designed for heavy loads, long distances, and rugged terrain. It utilizes high-quality parts and materials designed specifically to meet the riders’ needs by withstanding harsh rural conditions. Beyond that, the bike is easy to maintain and repair. Overall, the purpose-built Buffalo is the only bike strong enough to tackle the rugged roads in these developing regions.
WHERE THEY WORK
To date, World Bicycle Relief has delivered 550,742 bicycles and trained more than 2500 field mechanics in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. World Bicycle Relief is a registered nonprofit in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and Australia, and has assembly facilities in Colombia, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
IMPACT AND HOW IT WORKS
The organization is a non-profit that uses social-enterprise sales to provide the Buffalo bicycles for the regions in need. There turned out to be such high demand for rugged, strong and durable bicycles that locals couldn’t get enough of them. In 2008, World Bicycle Relief formed a subsidiary, Buffalo Bicycles Ltd., a nonprofit that also owns a for-profit company. From there, they sell bicycles to other nonprofits, businesses, local governments and individuals to meet this increasing market demand. This cycle of sales from Buffalo Bicycles Ltd. helps fund the World Bicycle Relief’s programs and so on. This allows their team to deliver more efficiently, distribute more bicycles per donation, increase scale and create a long-term impact where they work.
For sustainability, World Bicycle Relief employs more than 50 assemblers globally to build and deliver the rugged Buffalo bicycles. Assemblers hone their skills in specialized areas of the production, becoming experts on specific components. Knowledge and best practices are shared between facilities, creating the spread of innovation from team to team. Additionally, there are trained field mechanics to ensure that riders using the Buffalo bicycles have regular access to maintenance and spare parts. On top of that, they operate more than 30 local shops, where people can purchase spare parts and even purchase a Buffalo bicycle.
To continue answering the call, the team gathers data and analyzes the results to improve each of their programs and the bicycles. By evaluating the impact of these programs (not only demonstrating where the money goes), they are able to raise awareness of the challenges faced, tell stories of change, determine their next steps, and align the work being done to international development priorities, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Overall, the target outcomes that drive this program are to decrease travel times, increase school attendance, improve academic performance, increase delivery of medical needs, make access to distant markets more accessible, and promote income for farmers/entrepreneurs.
To make an immediate impact, there are donations that can be made online to contribute towards people in need of a life-changing tool like the bicycle. Nonetheless, there are other avenues to get involved and be a part of this non-profit. Join the team of global staff and volunteers, shop on their online store, attend an event, create a fundraiser or even contribute by partnering with a rural school in a developing country.
Recently, World Bicycle Relief’s Pedal to Empower event for women and girls in need of bicycles aligned with World Bicycle Day (June 3). To celebrate the bicycle as “a symbol of human progress and advancement,” the event was designed for all. Whether you pedaled around the block or pushed yourself to set a personal record, this annual ride made a world of difference: 920 riders in 33 countries participated virtually and at in-person rides in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, collectively raising more than $450,000 to mobilize women and girls in need. You name it, World Bicycle Relief is pushing to create a community and start changing lives. Here are examples of women and girls whose lives have benefited from World Bicycle Relief:
—Annie Chisale, a World Bicycle Relief-trained bicycle mechanic in Malawi: “I am trying to dismiss the myth that only men can fix bicycles. Being the first woman mechanic, the youth in our village look up to me and understand that they can do anything to improve their lives and the community. I am a role model and am proud of that. Women can.”
—Zule Quintero, a member of the Food and Agricultural Organization in La Paz, Colombia, used to spend $100 per month to commute to and from her work of transporting produce. When she received her Buffalo bicycle from World Bicycle Relief, she was able to use that money for food and school fees for her children instead. “The bicycle has been of great benefit to me,” says Zule, who now has the tool she needs to carry her through the pandemic and beyond.
—Malawi teen mothers Maggie and Febby, profiled in a short film, The Comeback Girls, know that a bicycle means the difference between staying in school or not—and consequently, providing a better future for themselves and their daughters or not. A Buffalo bicycle is the critical tool that helps these young mothers strive to finish their education despite an almost two-hour walk to school.
It’s not just about a bike, this is about life. World Bicycle Relief mobilizes individuals, their families and entire communities to thrive. Every one of us has the ability to make a world of difference and can change lives with a bicycle.