For me, living in the developed world, bike riding is a life-enhancing transportation choice. In less developed places, where cars are things of dreams and transportation involves walking, a bicycle is a life-multiplier. Imagine the power of putting bicycles into the lives of people whose only option is to walk everywhere carrying things on their backs.
This is exactly the goal of World Bicycle Relief (WBR). WBR was started by the SRAM Corporation in response to the tsunami in the Indian Ocean just after Christmas, 2005 to deliver bicycles to the people of Sri Lanka to help rebuild devastated lives there.
In 2006, WBR teamed up with other organizations to provide bicycles to volunteer health care workers in Africa ministering to people with HIV/AIDS. Imagine how much more effective someone can be riding a bicycle between patients instead of walking. This is the power of bicycles.
In addition to providing bicycles to health workers, students, farmers, businesspeople, and others, WBR also trains locals to become bicycle mechanics and gives them tools and spare parts. This not only insures that WBR bikes will be well serviced and have spare parts available, it also provides someone with new skills and a livelihood. One mechanic is trained for every 50 bikes distributed.
WBR has designed a bike specifically able to handle the rigors of third-world terrain. It is a 55 pound, single speed behemoth made in Asia and assembled locally. The rack is designed to carry 100 Kilograms! As I write this, close to 100,000 bicycles have been distributed. There are lots of stories on WBR's website of the benefits these bikes have brought to communities and individuals around the world.
My own biking experiences have added richness to my life in ways I could never predict and allowed me to understand how much a bicycle could impact someone whose only transportation choice is walking. WBR's work has inspired me to set up a monthly donation in the knowledge that people's lives will be better, as a result.
I am writing this article to bring WBR to the attention of other bike tourists who might feel, as I do, that bicycles not only have the power to change the world, but to also make it a better place in the bargain.
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Copyright © 2007 by Ray Swartz