88Bikes Foundation was established in 2006 when the organization decided to raise funds to send 88 bikes to the Palm Tree Orphanage in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Since then, the foundation has delivered over 4,000 bikes to children in 14 different countries around the world.
$88 is the amount needed to send a bike to a child, however, the organisation welcomes donations of any size. $50, for example, will help support the costs of entrepreneurial bike share and bike shop programs, run by formerly-trafficked girls in India and the Balkans. It is these girls that the foundation aims to help the most – survivors of the abuse of human trafficking – by using bikes to help bring back a sense of freedom and enjoyment to their lives.
“We partner with vetted, locally-run NGOs, purchase bicycles from local vendors, hire local labor and connect each survivor one-to-one with her donor. Our volunteers return to lead bike rides, organize repair clinics, even paint murals and lead dressmaking workshops!”
The power of one-to-one philanthropy is an integral aspect of the foundation’s vision. Each bike sponsor provides their name, along with photos of themselves. In return, they receive a photograph of the girl they’ve helped and her bike, and sometimes a letter from her too.
“We work hard to ensure that every penny donated is a direct contribution to the purpose of the project– buying bikes for kids in challenging places, and supporting the ongoing bike culture that we leave behind so that it can continue to be a source of joy and inspiration for the kids as they grow up.”
Past projects have included endowing bikes to an ashram in Bihar, India, that shelters survivors of sexual slavery. Project Asha, inspired by one of the girls at the ashram, has since grown into a mission to send bikes to girls who have experienced similar abuse in SE Asia, Eastern Europe and the Philippines. There, bikes provide a “catalyst for healing, health, and of course, happiness.”
Back in 2008, the foundation sent 200 bikes to refugees of the Ugandan Civil War at Patongo, helping orphans, former child soldiers and street children between the ages of 5 and 17. In 2011, 88Bikes launched their project Villages, which culminated in 1,300 bikes being sent to children in rural villages, including orphans in Mongolia, vulnerable children in Mozambique, as well as kids in Nepal, the Najavo Nation and a South African township. Again, bikes have provided the perfect means to “get to school, get to the market, play with their friends and most importantly, have fun!”
Most recently, the Passport to Happiness Project aims to generate funds to sustain the growth of the foundation – from fixing up bikes and replacing tyres, to painting inspiring murals and teaching girls new artisan skills like dressmaking.
All images copyright Dan Austin.