A bike that is stashed away all winter and then dusted off and used a handful times in the spring and summer months can become a life-altering gift to someone in a developing country.
The chance to give people the “gift of mobility” is the reason Mike Kirk and a team of volunteers will spend this Saturday at the Langley Events Centre, accepting donations of youth-and-adult-sized bicycles.
Donations will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the LEC’s east parking lot, off of 202A Street.
All donated bikes are earmarked for Bicycles for Humanity (bicycles-for-humanity.org), a non-profit organization that delivers bicycles to developing countries, including Uganda, South Africa, and Namibia.
“It is amazing to see the good our bikes can do,” Kirk said.
Kirk said he’s putting his time and energy into Bicycles for Humanity because he’s so connected to the cause.
“I could see the benefit of what the bikes can do for people in a developing country,” Kirk said. “It’s a catalyst to help their world.”
Bicycles for Humanity notes that the mobility offered by a bicycle means that “mothers can carry containers of water back to their village in a fraction of the time walking required. Students get to school faster, saving precious daylight for studies. Parents transport more items to market to sell. Healthcare workers are three to four times more productive.”
This is Kirk’s second bike drive. The first, in 2014, was “overwhelming,” he said.
Kirk had hoped to receive between 10 and 20 donated bicycles and ended up with 140 at the end of the day.
And while this was a very positive development, Kirk had nowhere to store the bikes and said he had to “call in favours from all my friends to help get them from the parking lot at Five-Corners back to my place, where they sat tarped, and slowly dwindled down.”
“It was a slow process of getting them up to the chapter in Whistler who I was piggy-backing off of,” Kirk said.
The plan for the past couple years was for Kirk to gather the bikes in the Fraser Valley, while Pat Montani (the founder of the entire B4H org and Whistler chapter) handled all the container purchasing, and shipping arrangements.
He says he’s now “a lot more organized,” and has a trailer and shipping container ready to store the bikes locally.
“We’ve been clearing out stratas and taking drop-offs over the past couple years and that’s added about another 200 to our total collection,” Kirk said.
“Recently I took all the bikes I had — roughly 60 — and gave them to a group in North Van that sent a container to Namibia.”
Kirk came across Bicycles for Humanity online and its purpose resonated with him. He said he has a “willingness to do good and hopefully make the world a better place.”
“I feel this is an organization that really helps,” he added. “I also feel it’s important for my two kids to see me… make change and set a positive example for them.”
The key on Saturday is for donors to drop off bikes suitable for those aged 10 and older.
“The cost/space used to get a small child’s bike to these developing countries is not worth it for the ultimate use,” Kirk stressed. “The bigger bikes are just so much more valuable. This is a very important point so hopefully we can call this out.”
The bikes from this year’s drive will go to an organization in South Africa.
“The Seattle chapter may have some funds and already has a network on the ground over there to ensure the bikes are used properly,” Kirk said.
In general, Kirk said, a bike is “just a great gift to a person in a developing world. Once people see the cause, it’s like, ‘Oh, this is where my bike needs to go.’ People relate to the cause and see that this gives their bikes a really positive second life.”
The founder of Bicycles for Humanity’s Fraser Valley chapter, Kirk plans to host a pub night or something similar as a fundraiser, as well.
“All in all, the cost of the container, shipping, etc. will amount to a $10,000 bill, and that will all be funded by grassroots pounding-the-ground donations,” he said. “Whistler has some good infrastructure in this regard that I hope to leverage, too.”