Providing bicycles to those in need

From Down Under comes a story of collecting, repairing and distributing bikes to those in need, courtesy of Goodwill Bicycles Australia – an organisation that strives to ‘provide opportunities for developing countries to create community based, sustainable bicycle repair businesses that promote environmentally friendly and affordable transportation.’

Bicycles donated to the 2000-2002 East Timor Project

Bicycles donated to the 2000-2002 East Timor Project

In East Timor, bikes strengthen community relations, while promoting pedal power as a form transport that protects and preserves the environment

In East Timor, bikes strengthen community relations, while promoting pedal power as a form of transport that protects and preserves the environment

Inspiration for Goodwill Bicycles grew from the shadows of East Timor’s troubles at the turn of the millennium, when Mark Pate and Jenny Clarke set up their first NGO, the ‘Australia to East Timor Recycled Bicycle Humanitarian Project’, under the United Nations Humanitarian Assistance & Emergency Rehabilitation Pillar. There, 7,000 bicycles donated from across Australia were successfully distributed amongst people in need in remote villages after the fight for independence with Indonesia, in which much of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed.

Fine tuning bikes in Fiji

Fine tuning bikes in Fiji

Since then the organisation, now based on the east coast’s Byron Bay, has teamed up with the Village Bicycle Project – the subject of a previous Worldwide Cycling Atlas journal – and sent 700 bikes to Ghana and the Solomon Islands. Bikes have also been redistributed domestically, to initiatives such as Mathew Talbot House, a hostel for the homeless in Sydney, and Deadly Treadlies in Alice Springs. There, 500 bikes have been pressed into service on the red dirt roads that typify the geographic heart of Australia. Donated to indigenous communities, they’ve been used to encourage a sense of self esteem and independence amongst kids.

Collecting bikes in Byron Bay, Australia

Collecting bikes in Byron Bay, Australia

Where else do these bicycles find such a new lease of life? Most recently, as far afield as the farming communities of Taveuni Island, Fiji, where pedal power will be used to transport produce to markets, and to help children get to school. In fact, 10,000 bikes have been distributed across six countries, including Tonga, where pedal power has encouraged physical activity, helping decrease obesity and type II diabetes.

Goodwill Bicycles and some of the 300 bikes sent to the Polynesian state of Tonga

Goodwill Bicycles and some of the 300 bikes sent to the Polynesian state of Tonga

Carousel image copyright Dian Vasthu
All others images copyright Goodwill Bicycles Australia.